One of the best ways to stay proactive when it comes to your oral health is to look to unlikely places for signs of issues. Believe it or not, when it comes to checking for problems in your mouth, simply sticking out your tongue and looking in the mirror can tell you a lot. However, to know what you’re looking for, you need to know the signs of a healthy tongue and those of an unhealthy tongue. A healthy tongue should be pink in color and covered with small nodules, known as papillae. When you start to notice a deviation from the norm and experience pain, there may be cause for some concern.

Today, Advanced Indiana will be discussing what your tongue says about your health. After reading this article, you’ll be well informed about changes that may need to be evaluated by your doctor or dentist. The tongue is an essential indicator of our health and can provide clues about what’s happening in our bodies. When you know what to look out for, you can stay proactive and take the necessary actions to keep yourself at optimum health. So, what should you know? Let’s find out.

What Does a White Coating/White Spots on Your Tongue Mean?

If you’ve noticed that your tongue is white or have noticed white spots, this could be an indication of a few different health issues. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of white coating/white spots on the tongue and what it could mean for your health.


A white coating/white spots could be indicative of leukoplakia. Leukoplakia is a condition caused by the excessive growth of cells in the mouth. White patches appear on the tongue and inside the mouth as a result of this excessive growth. Leukoplakia is seen most often in people that use tobacco products. Although leukoplakia isn’t inherently dangerous in itself, it can be a precursor to cancer.

Oral Thrush

Another potential cause of a white appearance on the tongue is oral thrush. Oral thrush is a yeast infection that develops inside the mouth and can appear as white patches. Interestingly, these white patches typically have the texture of cottage cheese. Oral thrush is most commonly seen in infants, the elderly (particularly those who wear dentures), people with diabetes, and those with weakened immune systems. If you’ve recently taken antibiotics, you may also be at risk for developing oral thrush.

What Does a Red Tongue Mean for Your Health?

If you’ve noticed a red coloring on your tongue, you should know that this isn’t necessarily normal. As stated, your tongue should be pink in color, and a deeper red is usually a sign that’s something not quite right in terms of your health. Here are a few possible causes of a tongue with a red appearance.

Kawasaki Disease

One of the most severe conditions resulting in a red tongue is Kawasaki disease. Kawasaki disease is most commonly seen in children under five and is often accompanied by a severely high fever. If you notice that your child has a red tongue, you should have them evaluated by a medical professional as soon as possible.

Vitamin Deficiency

Vitamin deficiencies, most commonly B-12 or folic acid deficiencies, can also result in a tongue with red coloring. To determine whether or not a simple deficiency is the cause of your red tongue, you can have a blood test done. Your medical professional will likely recommend that you start taking vitamin supplements to get what your body needs.

What Does it Mean if Your Tongue is Hairy and Black?

Believe it or not, the papillae on your tongue grow throughout your lifetime, similarly to hair. In some people, these papillae may grow longer than usual and provide the perfect home for bacteria to flourish. When these bacteria grow, they may look dark or black in appearance, while overgrown papillae quite closely resemble hair.

While this particular condition is uncommon and relatively harmless, it is usually an indicator that you aren’t practicing good dental hygiene. Talk to your dentist about how you can improve your dental hygiene practice if you have noticed this change in your tongue’s appearance.

What Does a Sore or Bumpy Tongue Mean for Your Health?

Finally, a sore or bumpy tongue can result from various conditions which range in severity. If you’ve noticed that your tongue is bumpy or irritated, we highly recommend that you make an appointment with your dentist, as they will be the most helpful in helping you determine the cause of this change. Here are a few potential causes of a sore or bumpy tongue.


Those who smoke will commonly feel discomfort on their tongue, such as soreness. The cause of this development is the fact that smoking irritates the tongue considerably. To learn more about the impact that tobacco use can have on your dental health, check out our blog post, “Effects of Tobacco on Your Teeth.”

Oral Cancer

When you experience a lump or sore on your tongue that doesn’t go away within a couple of weeks, this could be an indication of oral cancer. You should keep in mind that the majority of oral cancers don’t hurt in the early stages. For this reason, you should never assume that a lack of pain means there isn’t anything wrong.

Mouth Ulcers

Finally, a sore or bumpy tongue can accompany the emergence of mouth ulcers. Mouth ulcers are not uncommon, and many people develop them at one point or another. While the exact cause of mouth ulcers is unknown, it is commonly thought that stress may be a factor. Typically, mouth ulcers, also known as canker sores, heal without treatment within a couple of weeks.

Care For Your Tongue (and Your Health) with Advanced Indiana!

As you can see, the tongue can tell us a lot about the quality of our health. Further, practicing good dental hygiene can make you much less likely to develop some of the conditions we’ve included in this article. One of the best ways to keep your teeth at their healthiest is by making regular appointments with your local dentist.

If you want to get a leg up on your oral health, look no further than Advanced Indiana. We are the most trusted dentists in the area and strive to provide exceptional service as we support you on your journey to the best oral health possible. Book an appointment online today or contact us! We’ll be happy to assist you.

Photo credit: Hand photo created by pch.vector –