The tongue helps to chew, swallow, and taste food. However, the tongue can do much more, which includes providing information about your overall health.
The symptoms of many acute and chronic disease can appear on your tongue. Sometimes they are among the first signs that something is wrong.
According to Sally Cram (a periodontist in Washington, DC), a normal tongue is pinkish-red and not bright red with bumps and waves.
Here are some things your tongue can tell you about your health.
1. Cancer: Cancer is probably the last thing on your mind when you visit your dentist, but your dentist could be the first person to detect head, neck, and oral cancer.
Any bump or sore on your tongue or elsewhere in your mouth that lingers longer than two weeks needs to be examined.
A condition known as leukoplakia can produce white patches on your tongue caused by uncontrolled growth of cells in your mouth. Leukoplakia can be harmless, but it can also herald cancer down the line and should be examined.
2. HIV: Some years ago, when HIV was known to be an almost certain killer, the white pasty covering on the tongue of oral thrush could be one of the first signs of infection.
Red sores on your tongue and elsewhere in your mouth can also be a sign of HIV/Aids, as can hairy growth on the sides of your tongue called hairy leukoplakia.
3. Diabetes: Oral thrush is common among people with uncontrolled diabetes. It can be the first sign that you have the chronic condition because people often see their dentist more regularly than a doctor.
Thrush, which is also known as oral candidiasis, looks like a heavy white coating on your tongue. A good number of people with diabetes are most likely to have dry mouth. The tongue can be shriveled up and lose some of its normal appearance, as revealed by Ryan Kauffman (nose, ear, and throat specialist at Piedmont Healthcare Center in Atlanta).
4. Vitamin Deficiencies: A healthy tongue is pinkish-red in color. A bright red tongue could be a sign of not enough folic acid or iron. However, these deficiencies can be corrected with supplements.
A bright red tongue could also be a sign of strep throat.