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What Does Your Tongue Colour Say About Your Dental Health?

12 August 2022

Categories: Dental Care
Tongue Colour

Just like your teeth, food debris, bacteria and dead skin cells can build up on the surface of your tongue.

Besides brushing, flossing and rinsing your mouth, cleaning your tongue should be incorporated into your dental care routine as well. An indication that your tongue needs some cleaning would be when its surface appears whitish or yellowish.

However, did you know that your tongue can turn into various colours besides those mentioned above? When it does, this can indicate that your tongue needs more than just a scrape, it could be saying something more about your health.

Read on to find out what the different tongue colours could mean!

What is tongue discolouration?

A bumpy, oddly shaped and discoloured tongue can be an indication of a dental or general health problem. Truth to be told, your tongue can turn into various colours and it is usually linked to poor dental hygiene. However, it could also be due to the side effects of your lifestyle choices or a symptom of a medical condition.

Now, look into the mirror (or your phone camera) and say “Ahhhhhh”. What colour of your tongue do you see?

If your tongue is…

  • Pink

    A pink tongue is a healthy tongue! Sometimes you might see a thin whitish coat on your tongue but that is nothing to be alarmed about. This whitish coat that appears over time is due to the buildup of food debris, bacteria and dead skin cells. Simply clean your tongue with a tongue scraper or toothbrush for a pink tongue once again.

  • Black

    If you’re staring at a black tongue, it can give you quite a shock! In most cases, the tongue not only looks black, it will appear hairy too. Now, this is not because hair is growing on your tongue. Instead, it’s caused when the papillae on your tongue grow longer and do not shed. An overgrowth of food debris and bacteria on these papillae contributes to a black and hairy tongue.

    A black and hairy tongue is not as harmful as it looks. It is only temporary and will resolve after you have addressed the reason behind it. Possible reasons for a black and hairy tongue can be poor dental hygiene habits, excessive use of tobacco and alcohol intake as well as diabetes or benign medical conditions.

  • White

    Do you see thick white patches or lines on your tongue instead of merely a thin coat?

    A white tongue is when debris (like food and sugar), bacteria and dead skin cells get trapped between the papillae on the surface of your tongue. This can cause the papillae to swell up and become inflamed, creating white patches on your tongue.

    Some causes of a white tongue include poor dental hygiene, dry mouth, dehydration and the use of tobacco, all of which can be managed immediately with better dental hygiene. It could also be a symptom of more serious health conditions such as oral thrush and leukoplakia.

  • Purple and Blue

    If your tongue turned purple because of a candy you just had, don’t worry! That’s just the effects of food colouring.

    A purple or blue tongue has a purplish-bluish tinge to the surface of your tongue. Sometimes, it could appear as coloured spots too.

    This could indicate a health concern such as low oxygen supply, poor blood circulation and heart problems. Individuals with a purple or blue tongue are encouraged to seek medical advice immediately. In rare cases, a purple tongue could also be a sign of Kawasaki disease.

  • Red

    Besides the prominent sign of the tongue being red in colour, a red tongue can also appear swollen and bumpy. Needless to say, this is why it is also known as strawberry or raspberry tongue.

    There are several possible reasons that can cause a red tongue, with the majority of them being medical-related. They include allergies, low levels of vitamin B-12, Scarlet fever and Kawasaki disease. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a red tongue is a sign of excessive heat in the body and is also linked to inflammation.

  • Yellow

    Poor dental hygiene, dry mouth and the buildup of dead skin cells on the papillae can cause a yellow tongue. If left unaddressed, it may also turn into a black tongue due to the continuous buildup of dead skin cells on your tongue. Medical conditions such as jaundice can contribute to a yellow tongue too.

    While a yellow tongue is usually harmless, poor dental hygiene that causes a yellow tongue can lead to various dental conditions such as bad breath, gum disease and tooth loss.

How to keep your tongue healthy?

Poor dental hygiene is often one of the main reasons that can affect your tongue colour. This is why good dental hygiene including a clean tongue is important.

To help you cultivate the habit of preserving the health of your tongue, here are 5 steps to a clean and healthy tongue:

  1. Practice good oral hygiene
    By brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day as well as rinsing with a mouthwash every now and then.
  2. Drink lots of water daily
    This helps to cleanse your mouth from food debris and bacteria. It also prevents dry mouth.
  3. Make healthy food choices
    You are what you are and that includes your oral health too. Here’s a guide on foods that are great for your oral health.
  4. Clean your tongue regularly
    You should clean your tongue at least once a day with the help of a tongue scraper or your toothbrush.
  5. Visit your dentist regularly
    Lastly, do adhere to your scheduled appointments with your dentist. Regular visits to your dentist will help to maintain your tongue health as well as overall health.

Depending on where your tongue colour falls on the colour spectrum, having a better understanding of it can help you take an informed look at your tongue and guide you towards better and healthier dental care.

For any dental concerns, schedule an appointment and consult our dentists at i.Dental today.

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