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What Does Your Tongue Say About Your Health

    What Does Your Tongue Say About Your Health

    You might not notice it, but your tongue is one of the organs that you use the most. You use your tongue not just when you eat or drink, but also when you speak. But aside from these, did you know that you can learn how to read your tongue in order to get an idea of your overall health?

    What Does Reading Your Tongue Mean?

    There’s a reason why doctors usually ask you to stick out your tongue during a checkup. This is because looking at your tongue gives your doctor clues about the current state of your health. By looking at your tongue, doctors can know if you have not been drinking enough water, if you are a smoker, as well as if you have diabetes or other health problems.

    Now, even if we can not all be doctors, that does not mean that we can not learn some simple ways to check our health. By knowing how to read your tongue, you can get a general idea of your health. It should also help you identify any problems that you may need to discuss with your doctor.

    how to read your tongue

    How to Read Your Tongue: What to Look for

    Reading your tongue is as simple as checking your tongue in front of the mirror. See if you have any of the following symptoms:

    Unusual growths on the tongue

    One of the ways to read your tongue is to check for unusual sores or growths that do not seem to go away. If you notice any, it might be time to get it looked at by your doctor. Having mouth sores are normal, and some people are more prone to having it compared to others. But if a sore lasts for about 4 weeks or more, without any sign that it is healing, it might be a cause for concern.

    Cracks or severe dryness of the tongue

    Certain types of medication, such as diuretics, can cause dehydration. This can manifest as cracks or fissures on the tongue. To remedy this, it is important to stay well-hydrated or use mouthwash and toothpaste specifically designed to help treat dryness of the mouth.

    Geographic tongue

    Have you read about the “geographic” tongue? If not, don’t worry; it’s quite easy to notice. People with geographical tongue seem to have “islands” made up of raised reddish patches on their tongue.

    If you have a geographic tongue, there is no need to worry. It is not a sign of a disease, nor is it a health problem. It just happens to some people, and until now, scientists are not quite sure as to the reason why.

    how to read your tongue

    Hairy tongue

    Hairy tongue is a condition wherein a person’s tongue has either a brown or black discoloration in the tongue as well as “hair” seemingly growing out of it. This “hair” is not real hair, but actually filiform papillae, or some of the small bumps in a person’s tongue.

    The hairy tongue can be caused by poor oral hygiene, drinking too much caffeine, smoking, and frequent antibiotic use.

    White patches or spots on the tongue

    When you try to read your tongue and observe white patches or spots, it is usually a sign of trouble.

    If the spots resemble cottage cheese, then it might be oral thrush or a yeast infection that develops in the mouth. Infants and older people usually suffer from oral thrush, because of their weakened immune systems. Certain steroids and medication can also cause oral thrush.

    Another possible condition is leukoplakia, or a condition where the cells in the mouth grow out of control. This usually manifests as white spots on the tongue and inside of the mouth. Smokers and people who use tobacco products usually have leukoplakia. Having leukoplakia does not always lead to cancer, but it can happen. If you have leukoplakia, it would be best to consult your doctor about it.

    A red tongue

    A healthy tongue should be pink, not red. If your tongue is red, it could be a sign of a vitamin deficiency, particularly folic acid or vitamin B12. In order to test for a deficiency, you can get a blood test done.

    Another possible reason for a red tongue is scarlet fever. Scarlet fever is usually caused by a bacterial infection, and the symptoms include having a red, bumpy appearance of the tongue, as well as high fever. If you notice these symptoms, it would be a good idea to get in touch with your doctor in order to seek treatment.

    Kawasaki disease is another health problem whose symptoms include a red tongue. It occurs in children aged 5 and below, and is a serious health condition. Aside from a red tongue, high fever is another symptom for this disease.

    Bumps or sores on the tongue

    Mouth sores are normal, and usually happen as a result of trauma such as accidentally biting your tongue or scalding it. As your tongue heals you might notice some bumps or sores, but these are normal and should not be a cause for concern.

    Canker sores can cause your mouth and tongue to have sores. These can be very painful, especially if you eat acidic or salty foods. For the most part, these should not be a cause for concern, and canker sores usually go away after a few days.

    However, if you “read” your tongue and noted some unusual sores, bumps, or growths that seem to last for weeks, it would be a good idea to get in touch with your doctor. Mouth sores that don’t heal can be a sign of oral cancer.

    Key Takeaways

    Your tongue is an important part of your body, so you should always take care of it. By brushing your teeth, not smoking, and eating a healthy diet, you can help make sure that your tongue stays healthy and disease-free.

    Aside from this, it is also a good idea to learn how to read your tongue and be aware of any signs of trouble to improve your overall oral care. Getting yourself checked early can help prevent any serious health problems from developing even further.


    Learn more about Earn, Nose and Throat conditions here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    What your tongue can tell you about your health, https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/what-your-tongue-can-tell-you-about-your-health, Accessed June 26 2020 What Your Tongue Can Tell You About Your Health – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-your-tongue-can-tell-you-about-your-health/, Accessed June 26 2020 What Does Your Tongue Say About Your Health Infographic | UPMC, https://share.upmc.com/2015/06/tongue-health-infographic/, Accessed June 26 2020 What does your tongue say about your health? | Live Better, https://www.medibank.com.au/livebetter/health-brief/health-check/what-does-your-tongue-say-about-your-health/, Accessed June 26 2020 Sore or white tongue – NHS - NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sore-or-white-tongue/, Accessed June 26 2020
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    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Mar 30, 2021
    Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, MD