Medical Advice

What Does the Tongue Reveal About Your Health?

When a doctor begins an examination, he asks the patient to take out their tongue. Mysteries offered by this can be revealed by Otolaryngologists.


Whitish deposits

If the tongue is covered with some white patches – partially or totally – it is clear that some kind of infection present on the tongue as would be an excessive increase in the number of bacteria or an inflammatory autoimmune disease is involved. Another possible cause is thrush, which arise as a result of the overproduction of yeast. Once the infection is treated with anti-fungal medication (locally or orally) the tongue will return to its original color.

Dark shade of the tongue

A healthy tongue should have a pink color, so you should be concerned when it is black or dark brown. The answer lies in the diet that the person has, the lifestyle and medications used. If the filiform papillae on the top of the tongue are long, they can easily color in different shades due to the consumption of food, beverages, or antibiotics. A side effect of the administration of bismuth is that the tongue can be temporarily black.

Also, anyone drinking coffee, smoking or chewing tobacco can have brown tongue. The good news is that in both cases, tongue is just colored. Simply brushing should help diminishing the color for the tongue to return to its normal color. Even if the stains are not permanent, you must pay attention to tobacco use because it increases the risk of oral cancer.


Top of the tongue is covered with filiform papillae made of keratin (the same protein that forms hair); they are not really hair, even if it looks a little like it. Under normal conditions they are not noticeable, but there are certain situations in which they elongate giving the appearance of hairy tongue. Several factors may be responsible for stimulating the filiform papillae including bacterial infections, antibiotics or the feeling of dry mouth .

Ulcers or sores

Canker sores or ulcers in the mouth are small but are extremely painful. They develop especially for those people with genetic predispositions to which other risk factors such as: a cold, fever or excessive consumption of citrus fruits or biting of the tongue is added. Their evolution should be kept under observation. A thrush or ulcer normally heals within 10 days. Lesions that do not disappear even after this period and seem to get worse could be a sign of oral cancer and should be examined by a doctor as soon as possible.

Irregular surface of the tongue

The filiform papillae are normally slightly protruding, but sometimes red and inflamed. As with ulcers, as long as they return to normal after a few days the inflammation is not a symptom of a more serious disease. If, however, the symptom worsen and does not heal, it could be a sign of oral cancer.

Burning sensation

Oral dysesthesia or the distortion of sensations perception is a condition whose cause is supposed to be the eating of foods that cause a temporary burning sensation. Symptoms of burning, discomfort and pain can affect the whole mouth, including the tongue. The sensation can be constant and may come and go throughout the day. It is not known exactly why but this symptom is more common in women during the post-menopause. Other possible causes could be bacterial infections, feeling of dry mouth (as a side effect of certain medications) and nutritional deficiencies. There is no specific effective treatment for this problem, but these can be used to relieve the symptoms: consuming large quantities of water, antidepressants, anxiolytics, chewing gum (to combat dryness of the mouth).

Faded and soft tongue

For a person who has low iron levels, their tongue may look soft and discolored. This is because blood does not carry enough oxygen to keep the tissues red. Due to the lack of oxygen in the blood, all tissues, including the tongue, lose color.

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