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What Your Tongue Can Tell You About Your Health

For clues about problems in your mouth, stick out your tongue and look in the mirror. A healthy tongue should be pink and covered with small nodules (papillae). Any deviation from your tongue’s normal appearance, or any pain, may be cause for concern.

Your tongue could reveal surprising secrets about your health. From anemia, to autoimmune diseases, to food allergies, the tongue can sometimes be a good indicator of your overall health.

Check out these common tongue-related health conditions to see if your mouth might hold the secret to what's bothering you.

If your tongue has a white coating or white spots

Oral thrush: a yeast infection that develops inside the mouth. It appears as white patches that are often the consistency of cottage cheese. “Oral thrush is most commonly seen in infants and the elderly, especially denture wearers, or in people with weakened immune systems,” “People with diabetes and those who are taking inhaled steroids for asthma or lung disease can also get it. Oral thrush is more likely to occur after you’ve taken antibiotics.”

Leukoplakia: a condition in which the cells in the mouth grow excessively, which leads to white patches on the tongue and inside the mouth.

Leukoplakia can develop when the tongue has been irritated,“It’s often seen in people who use tobacco products. Leukoplakia can be a precursor to cancer, but isn’t inherently dangerous by itself. If you see what you think could be leukoplakia, contact your dentist for an evaluation.”

If your tongue is red

A red tongue could be a sign of:

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