woman question mark on tongue

We all remember as kids sticking out our tongues to shock adults with its blue, red or green hue after eating some sort of dye-filled candy or ice pop. It’s a rite of passage that makes us smile.

But when we look in the mirror as adults and see something different about our tongue, it gives us pause because, well, if our tongue looks weird, something must be wrong.

The dentists at Southeast Family Dental understand that a change in your tongue can be disturbing. Some changes in appearance may indicate other conditions that should be addressed. But you can rest assured that every time you visit us here in our office, we check your oral health overall, including your tongue. In between visits, brush, floss and check out your tongue.

I see spots on my tongue

If you notice white spots on your tongue, it is a good idea to contact your dentist or doctor. This is a common symptom of thrush. Oral thrush is also called oral candidiasis, which is a candida fungus that also causes yeast infections in other parts of the body. Usually the body can fend off the bacteria that grows into the fungus, but not always. That’s why oral thrush is common in babies, the elderly, people with dentures, and people with compromised immune systems.

People who routinely use inhalers that contain steroids can also be susceptible to killing off the “good” bacteria in the mouth, allowing a yeast infection to flourish. The spots can spread throughout the mouth, and even be transferred into the esophagus causing additional symptoms. Although the white spots can be scraped off the tongue, thrush will return. It is treated with prescribed medication.

My tongue is white

In this instance, the most common culprit is an overgrowth of tissue like a callous. Unlike thrush, it cannot be scraped off. It is usually caused by a sharp edge or rough tooth rubbing on the tongue. The remedy is often fixing the tooth, crown or dental fixture causing the irritation. However, with more cell turnover, there is a higher chance for mutation, increasing the risk for tongue cancer. So consult your dentist if you notice a white growth on your tongue.

My tongue is red or red and splotchy

It may sound funny, but there is a condition called geographic tongue. It is called that because the red patches look like a map and the areas of redness moves around to different locations on the tongue. It may be a vitamin deficiency that causes the condition, and it can be painful and affect eating. Other than avoiding foods that cause it to flare up like spicy or acidic foods, there is not another treatment to “cure” or prevent the condition. Dentists often recommend a topical anesthetic rinse to numb the affected areas on the tongue so the patient can eat.

Just like you brush your pearly whites to keep them clean and healthy, keeping an eye on your tongue is a good idea. Whatever you see, don’t panic, just make an appointment to see us here at Southeast Family Dental. We can help you figure out what’s going on in your mouth!