What your tongue can tell you about your health

May 31, 2021

While many people consider the tongue’s main purpose is for taste, the tongue is linked to vital organs and can give you important information about your health. In fact, dental services in Calgary, like routine checkups and cleanings, often include your dentist assessing your tongue for oral cancer and other abnormalities.

Any significant changes in the colour or coating of the tongue can indicate an underlying health issue. Of course, a visit to your doctor or schedule oral hygiene services can help you identify a problem, but it’s also important to be able to read your body’s messages. The tongue responds to different organs in the body. Learn what your tongue can tell you about your health below.

Tongue examination

What changes in the colour of the tongue can indicate

A healthy and normal tongue is pink, but a pale pink tongue can signify vitamin deficiency or a weak immune system. On the other hand, a bright red tongue may be a sign of a fever or a hormone imbalance. Be cautious with a dark red tongue that appears to be tinged purple. This is a sign of inflammation or an infection in the body.

Changes in the tongue’s coating may be a sign of underlying issues

While a healthy tongue has some light coating on the top or sides, watch for these changes in coating - especially if it lasts longer than a few days:

  • Yellow coating - Indicates an infection in the body
  • Gray or black coating - A sign of a serious issue, such as a long-term digestive disorder
  • A thick white coating - Sometimes known as ‘flush’, can be an indicator of poor circulation to the extremities or a yeast infection

What the shape of your tongue means

Any changes in tongue shape are thought to be a sign of chronic illness affecting the blood. A normal and healthy tongue shape is neither too thick nor thin, with no puffiness or cracks. The tongue’s body should be smooth with no scalloped edges. If you notice a puffy tongue, it may indicate a nutritional deficiency. A very thin tongue can be a sign of dehydration.

When to see a doctor

When you schedule oral hygiene services such as routine cleaning, your dentist looks at your tongue as part of your exam. They will typically look for signs of swelling, lumps, and ask if you feel any pain, which are symptoms of oral cancer. Besides your regular dental services in Calgary at least twice a year, be sure to see a doctor if you notice any significant changes in your tongue, especially if it lasts longer than two weeks.

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