Tongue Color and Your Health

kid with red tongueYou’ve heard that what goes on in your mouth can affect the rest of your body, but did you know that what’s going on in your body can affect your mouth, too? Your tongue hosts a rich supply of nerves and blood vessels, and can have up to 8,000 taste buds. So when your Rochester dentist tells you to stick out your tongue, there are many things she might be looking for. 

Colors of an Unhealthy Tongue

Everything from color and texture, to the amount of moisture on your tongue, are clues to how your body is faring. A healthy tongue is pink, slightly moist, and can have a thin, light coating. A tongue of any other color may be cause for concern.  So what does tongue color say about your health?

  • White Tongue: While a healthy tongue will have a tinge of a whitish coating, thicker white plaque can be a sign of anything from dehydration to thrush, an infection by the yeast Candida albicans. In traditional Chinese medicine, the health of the digestive system is reflected in the whiteness of the tongue. A tongue lacking a thin covering indicates that stomach enzymes are not functioning properly.
  • Black Tongue: Despite its somewhat terrifying appearance, a black tongue is generally harmless. Elongated papillae on the surface of the tongue are far more susceptible to staining by dark foods or tobacco than their shorter counterparts. Most people with long papillae describe the feeling as have a hairy tongue, but rest assured there is no actual hair growing in there.
  • Red Tongue: Pink is a great color for a tongue, but should it evolve into a bright red, particularly if it is accompanied by slight swelling, you may have a vitamin deficiency of folic acid, iron, and B-12 or B3.
  • Purple Tongue: A purple tongue can indicate more serious issues relating to circulation. A tongue bluish or purple in appearance can mean there is a stagnation of blood in your circulatory system, or that your lymphatic system may be compromised.

Contact Dr. Calcagno Today

While a tongue stained green by excessive snow-cone consumption will likely disappear in a few hours, any other abnormal tongue conditions merit a trip to Calcagno Cosmetic and Family Dentistry. To discuss your oral health with Dr. Gilly Calcagno, call us today at (507)281-3659. We serve patients from Rochester, Red Wing, St. Charles, Winona, and Farmington.