What do tongue diseases say about your health?

What's on your tongue? The bumps, sores, and spots in your mouth may be harmless. But sometimes, they can be a warning to your health. Infections, stress, medical problems and even aging can create characteristic features on the tongue. Let's find out what tongue diseases are saying and when you should see a doctor!


1. White lesions

Creamy white spots can be a sign of a fungal infection. It usually occurs after an illness or a side effect of medication throws off the balance of bacteria in the mouth. Severe white patches could be lichen planus , a condition in which the body's immune system attacks the tissues in the mouth. If you see white, hard, flat patches that can be scraped away, it could be leukemia, which could be related to cancer. Let your dentist know about any white patches you see.

What do tongue diseases say about your health?

White patches can signal a disease of the tongue such as lichen planus

2. “Feather” on the tongue

If the tongue has a hairy, black-brown or white coating, this could be a hairy tongue condition. These “hairs” are made of normally small proteins turned into longer fibers. The layer of "hair" on the tongue is where food and bacteria gather. This layer may disappear when you brush or scrape your tongue. If there are white patches that can be shaved, it could be a sign of oral leukemia . It can happen to people who have a viral infection such as Epstein-Barr or HIV.

3. Black patches on tongue

The feathery tongue may be black. But the tongue can also turn black if certain medications are used. For some people, it turns the tongue black when mixed with saliva. This condition is harmless and goes away when you stop taking the medicine. This is not a tongue disease to worry about.

4. Bright red tongue

A bright red tongue can be an early sign of Kawasaki disease . It is a rare serious illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels throughout the body, most commonly in children. It is also a symptom of fever. If the tongue is red and smooth and there is pain in the mouth, it could be a sign that the body does not have enough vitamin B3.

What do tongue diseases say about your health?

This tongue disease signals that the body is lacking in certain substances

5. Burning sensation in the tongue

If your tongue feels like it's burning like when you're drinking a hot drink and has a metallic or bitter taste, you may have burning mouth symptoms. It could be a problem with the nerves in the tongue. Certain health problems, such as dry mouth, infections, acid reflux, and diabetes can also cause this symptom. For some people, acidic foods such as fruit, toothpaste, mouthwash, candy or gum also cause their mouth to burn.

6. Smooth tongue

The normal tongue will have many taste buds on the dorsal surface of the tongue. If the tongue is smooth and looks shiny red, it could be a sign of not getting enough nutrients like iron, folic acid or B vitamins. Infections or certain medications can also cause this.

>> How to supplement with folic acid (vitamin B9) properly? Immediately refer to the article Folic acid: Important nutrition for the body .

If there is a smooth red area on the tongue with a thin white border, it could be a map of the tongue. These patches can come and go, sometimes hurting or burning. Map tongue is usually harmless, but it can be related to psoriasis or lichen planus.

What do tongue diseases say about your health?

A smooth tongue can be a tongue disease

7. Soreness

There are many nerve endings on the tongue, so the tongue can be damaged. Sores, flat lichen, and map tongue can be painful. Certain medications and infections can also make your tongue sore. Sometimes, pain in the tongue can be a sign of cancer, especially when there is a red or white lesion. Talk about these problems with your doctor or dentist.

8. Big tongue

It is difficult when the tongue is too big for the rest of the mouth. The tongue can take up too much space, and teeth marks can be seen on the sides of the tongue. The doctor will try to find and treat the underlying condition, be it hypothyroidism , infection or allergies… However, if this is congenital then you need not worry as it is not a disease of the tongue.

What do tongue diseases say about your health?

Need to find out the new cause can treat the big tongue

9. Cracked tongue

Deep grooves on the tongue can be formed as part of aging. But they are also linked to problems like Down syndrome, psoriasis, and Sjogren's syndrome. Most cracked tongues are harmless, but you should gently brush your tongue to remove food and bacteria. The grooves may clear up when your doctor treats the cause of your cracked tongue.

10. Signs of oral cancer

Many spots and bumps are mostly harmless and can be cured. But in rare cases, it could be signs of cancer: sores that don't heal, lumps, sore tongue, and difficulty chewing or swallowing. If these symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks, seek medical attention.

What do tongue diseases say about your health?

Tumor on tongue

Through this article, you have gained more basic knowledge about tongue diseases. These can be normal conditions or symptoms related to diseases. It is important to always maintain oral hygiene, visit the dentist every 6 months. Please follow well to improve your oral health together!

Dr. Nguyen Thi Thanh Ngoc