What a White Tongue and Other Tongue Troubles Are Really Saying
Your tongue isn’t in the pink if it appears white, black, red, or ridged. See what’s behind such tongue trauma and learn how to handle the problem.
Cause: A white, coated tongue often occurs if you’re taking steroids for asthma, on antibiotics, undergoing chemotherapy, or dealing with diabetes or a compromised immune system. A white tongue may also be a sign of leukoplakia from excessive alcohol or tobacco use.
Cure: Be sure to brush your tongue twice daily for two weeks. Why should you brush your tongue, you may wonder? The reason is to ensure that a coated tongue is not an oral hygiene problem. If you continue to have a white tongue, it may be an overgrowth of candida, which is also called yeast or oral thrush. A coated tongue is easy to treat with an anti-fungal medication.
Cause: Redness on the tongue could simply indicate a sore throat, vitamin deficiency, or a case of dry mouth. But if you have strep throat and a high fever, it may indicate scarlet fever
Cure: Throat lozenges can soothe a sore throat and dry mouth can be treated with a product for saliva replacement or by drinking more water. A vitamin deficiency can be corrected with supplements and scarlet fever can be treated with antibiotics.
Cause: This may appear frightening at first, but it’s really no cause for concern. It typically occurs when cells on the tongue grow faster than they’re shed. It’s associated with improper oral hygiene, antibiotic use, a yeast infection, cancer therapy, and diabetes.
Cure: This condition typically subsides on its own.
Cause: A striped tongue may be a sign of a chronic condition called oral lichen planus, which is when the immune system attacks the cells in the mouth. Middle-aged women most commonly experience it.
The Cure: You probably won’t need treatment if it isn’t painful. However, have your doctor monitor your case because you may have a higher risk of developing oral cancer. If the condition is painful, you may be given medication.
The Cause: Geographic tongue gets its name from red and white spots on the tongue that look like a geographic map. It’s a sign that your taste buds have worn down in different areas. Some medical research indicates a correlation with the autoimmune condition called celiac disease.
The Cure: The condition needs no treatment.
The Cause: Taste buds on the back of the tongue are bumpier than those near the front, so expect small bumps in those areas. Eating hot, spicy foods can often irritate them and make them appear larger. Besides these bumps, you may notice others due to canker sores or herpes.
Cure: Bumps caused by canker sores or herpes will go away on their own, but you can hasten healing by soothing canker sores with an over-the-counter ointment, gargling with baking soda mixed in water, and avoiding acidic foods. Herpes requires a prescription antiviral medication.
Cause: Ridges typically occur when your teeth press into your tongue while you sleep. Yet ridges may also indicate a fissured tongue, which is a long crack down the center of the tongue.
Cure: Sleep-induced ridges go away on their own, but a fissured tongue is a lifelong genetic issue. If you have a fissured tongue, food may get trapped in the tongue’s indentions and lead to dental decay. This is why you should brush your tongue when brushing your teeth to remove any trapped food and debris that could cause dental issues.
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