What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

It’s standard procedure for a doctor to ask you to open your mouth and stick out your tongue at your annual physical. You may not think anything of it, but most physicians go through a checklist upon inspecting a patient’s tongue. A healthy tongue has a pinkish color, and any other discolorations or textures can potentially indicate an underlying health condition.

What if you could correct your overall health by simply examining your own tongue? Not only would it save you the hassle of going to your doctor’s office, but it could also help you address a problem before it progresses into something worse. Learning to read your tongue can help you know if you are sufficiently hydrated, suffering from diabetes, deficient in vitamins, or even dealing with an autoimmune disease. You’ll find the following tongue appearances helpful in your quest to managing your overall health.

White Coating

A white tongue or a tongue with white and pasty patches can be the result of a tongue infection, but it can also indicate a bacterial overgrowth, like candida. If it is a tongue infection, brush your tongue for a week or two to see if it goes away. If it doesn’t go away, it is most likely an overgrowth of yeast, which often causes oral thrush.

Geographic Tongue

The reason it is referred to as a geographic tongue is because the tongue appears map-like. You will most likely see smooth, red patches that have slightly raised borders, almost like little islands on the tongue. Geographic tongue is not caused by infection or cancer, and it affects about one to three percent of people. The cause is unknown and it tends to affect middle-aged or older adults.

Black And Hairy Tongue

It can be quite alarming to look at your tongue and see that it looks black or hairy-like. The tongue isn’t hairy, by the way; it just appears that way. The cause is typically benign. In fact, it is often associated with antibiotic use, cancer therapies, yeast infection, diabetes, or poor oral hygiene. This also occurs when the cells on the tongue grow faster than the body can shed them. It will most likely go away on its own.

Severely Dry Mouth

People who take diuretics, allergy medications, or blood pressure medication can suffer from an uncomfortable cracked tongue. If you must continue to take medication, it is imperative to stay sufficiently hydrated, avoid caffeine, and possibly brush with special toothpastes like Biotene for extreme cases.

Sore Spots

If you have ulcers or canker sores in the mouth, it is possible for them to creep up onto the tongue. Some people are predisposed to develop sore spots, while others never get them. Sore spots can often coincide with a cold, fever, or after eating a lot of citrus fruits. If a canker sore is the culprit, sore spots will disappear in about 7-10 days. You should consult your doctor if sore spots last longer than two to four weeks.


A rosy red tongue can often be caused by a sore throat, or strep throat in rare occasions. If strep throat is the culprit, you will most likely need to take antibiotics to remedy the issue. When the tongue is red and you don’t have a sore throat or fever, it could indicate a nutrient deficiency in B12, iron, or folate. You can get blood work done to determine this and plan how to up your nutrient intake from there.

Webbed Or Striped Look

When the immune system attacks cells in the mouth, it is possible for the tongue to appear webbed or striped. For some reason, middle-aged women are most susceptible to this. If you don’t experience any pain, a doctor may not need to treat it; rather, he/she will monitor symptoms. Catch it early because you don’t want to develop oral cancer in those areas.