Common Problems with the Tongue

The tongue is made up of a group of muscles that enable us to talk, taste food and swallow. The tongue is often taken for granted but for proper oral health care, we should pay as much attention to it as our teeth.

Tongue problems can be uncomfortable. Different reasons cause soreness and the discoloration of the tongue. Many problems are not serious and be resolved quickly. However, pain in the tongue can be an indicator or serious problems such as vitamin deficiency, oral cancer or even AIDS.

Here are some of the common problems and what causes them:

Common Problems with the Tongue

Oral cancer word cloud

1. White Tongue – characterized by a whitish coating or white spots

a. Leukoplakia causes cells to grow excessively. It is often found in people who use tobacco products. While not dangerous on its own, the condition can lead to cancer.
b. Candidiasis is a yeast infection that develops in the mouth. It is common in infants, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.
c. Oral lichen planus is characterized by raised white lines that appear to llok like lace on the tongue. Dentists are often unable to determine the cause of this.

2. Strawberry tongue – characterized by unusually red tongue with enlarged taste buds

a. Folic acid and Vitamin B12 deficiency
b. Benign migratory glossitis or geographic tongue is characterized by a map-like pattern.
c. People with scarlet fever can run really high temperatures and develop a red tongue.
d. Children under the age of five with Kawasaki syndrome, which affects blood vessels, can cause red tongue. Children may also develop redness and swelling in their extremities.

3. Black Hairy Tongue – common among people with poor dental hygiene but is usually nothing serious. This condition
is consists of long projections of tongue tissue which become discolored with time and appear as short dark hair as the name implies.

4. Bumpy or Sore Tongue can be caused by smoking, canker sores, enlarged papillae from infection, medical conditions like diabetes, and oral cancer.

Always consult the dentist or doctor for any tongue inflammation or soreness that does not go away after two weeks. Absence of pain is not an indication that the condition may not be serious.

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