The tongue is the most powerful muscle and is used for tasting, swallowing, and chewing food. The tongue is also used to form words for speaking. Taste buds cover the upper surface of the tongue.
A healthy tongue is smooth, moist, and pink. Many things can change its appearance and function.
Most tongue problems are harmless; a discolored or painful sore tongue may relate to the tongue itself and resolve on their own. Some may indicate a serious medical condition.
As many of us have experienced, a tongue injury (such as when we accidentally bite our tongue) can be quite painful since the tongue is such an instrumental part of our daily lives.
Though very few people know it, the tongue is actually a very good measure of the well-being of the body. This is why your doctor may use the tongue depressor to look in your mouth and tongue during an examination.
Dentists in India are regularly counselling patients about maintaining their oral health as bacteria from your mouth can travel to your body and can cause serious diseases.
A variety of diseases and disorders can affect the tongue including infections, injuries, chronic irritation, abnormal tissue growth and congenital conditions. Many tongue disorders are short-lived; others may cause long-term difficulties, requiring ongoing medical management.
In some instances, though, a discolored or painful tongue can indicate more serious conditions, including vitamin deficiencies, AIDS, or oral cancer. For this reason, it is important to seek medical advice if you have any ongoing problems with your tongue.
Numerous problems can affect your tongue which includes: discoloration, increased size, abnormalities of the surface, growths (bumps), pain, sores, changes in taste, changes in color, changes in texture and difficulty with movement.
Sometimes these problems often aren’t serious. However, sometimes your symptoms might occur due to an underlying condition that requires medical treatment.
In reputed dental clinics in Delhi, patients are being educated thoroughly about the possible causes of tongue problems.
What are the risk factors for tongue problems?
Depending on the tongue problem, risk factors may include smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, poor oral hygiene, viral infections, a weak immune system, and even stress.
Symptoms of tongue problems
Possible symptoms that you may experience related to your tongue include:
- a partial or complete loss of taste or changes in your ability to taste sour, salty, bitter, or sweet flavors
- difficulty moving your tongue
- tongue swelling
- a change from the normal color of your tongue or patches of color that are white, bright pink, black, or brown
- pain either all over the tongue or only in certain spots
- a burning sensation either all over the tongue or only in certain spots
- white or red patches, which are often painful
- a furry or hairy appearance of the tongue
Causes of tongue problems
Poor oral hygiene results in accumulation of food and bacteria in the nooks and crannies of its surface as our tongue are uneven, which makes it easy for bacteria to hide. To get rid of bacteria, you need to physically scrape them off.
Now in dental clinics in India, dentists are making it a point to explain the importance of tongue cleaning which is often neglected.
Smoking can cause a wide variety of tongue problems. People who smoke often find that their sense of taste is deadened or changed.
Nicotine is a known vasoconstrictor, something that limits blood flow -it limits your body cells from functioning or healing. For the tongue, continued smoking has shown to alter the morphology of the papillae, which hold your taste buds. Smoker’s papillae have been shown to typically be less dense in number, have less blood flow (less capillaries), and have thicker ‘skin’ (more keratin).
Dentists in Delhi are educating their patients and this is motivating patients to quit such habits.
For the most part, tongue conditions that appear to have no known cause (such as an obvious injury) should be evaluated by a physician or dentist for appropriate diagnosis, monitoring, and possible treatment.
Causes of a burning sensation on the tongue
A burning sensation on the tongue may occur in women who are postmenopausal. It can also occur due to exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke.
Causes of a change in tongue color
A bright pink color on the tongue is most often due to a deficiency in iron, folic acid, or vitamin B-12. An allergic reaction to gluten can also cause this.
A white tongue is usually a result of smoking, drinking alcohol or poor oral hygiene. White lines or bumps may be an inflammation called oral lichen planus. People think this occurs due to an abnormal immune response that may occur from an underlying condition, such as hepatitis C or allergies.
Causes of a change in tongue texture
If your tongue appears to be furry or hairy, it’s most likely caused by a course of antibiotics. Radiation to the head or neck can also lead to this symptom. It can also develop if you consume too much of an irritating substance, such as coffee or mouthwash, or if you smoke.
Causes of tongue pain
Tongue pain usually occurs due to an injury or infection. If you bite your tongue, you may develop a sore that can last for days and be very painful. A minor infection on the tongue isn’t uncommon, and it can cause pain and irritation. Inflamed papillae, or taste buds, are small, painful bumps that appear after an injury from a bite or irritation from hot foods.
A canker sore is another common cause of pain on or under the tongue. This is a small, white or yellow sore that can occur for no apparent reason. Canker sores, unlike cold sores, don’t occur due to the herpes virus. Some possible causes are mouth injuries, abrasive ingredients in toothpastes or mouthwashes, food allergies or nutritional deficiencies. In many cases, the cause of a canker sore is unknown and referred to as an aphthous ulcer. These sores usually go away without any treatment.
Other, less common reasons for tongue pain include cancer, anemia, oral herpes, and irritating dentures or braces.
Neuralgia can also be a source of tongue pain. This is a very severe pain that occurs along a damaged nerve. Neuralgia occurs for no obvious reason, or it can occur due to: aging, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, tumors, infections etc.
Causes of tongue swelling
A swollen tongue may be a symptom of a disease or medical condition, such as:
– Down syndrome
– Tongue cancer
– Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
– An overactive thyroid
– Strep throat
When the tongue swells very suddenly, the likely reason is an allergic reaction. This can result in difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing due to tongue swelling is a medical emergency. If this occurs, you should get medical help right away.
Remedy for canker sores or sores due to mouth injury
If you have a canker sore or a sore that occurs due to a mouth injury, you should do the following:
- Avoid hot and spicy foods.
- Try to drink only cold beverages and eat only bland, soft foods until the sore has healed.
- You can rinse your mouth with warm salt water.
- You can ice the sore.
You should make an appointment to see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment if your tongue problem is severe, unexplained, or persists for several days with no signs of improvement.
What are tongue problems in pregnancy?
A small percentage of women experience a sore tongue while pregnant. This may be related to the hormonal changes taking place during pregnancy. These conditions usually resolve after the pregnancy ends.
What are the treatments for tongue problems?
The treatment of a tongue problem depends on the underlying cause. For some tongue problems, no treatment is necessary whereas for other conditions, medications, surgery, or radiation may be needed. If the tongue issue is a result of an underlying medical condition, treatment of the underlying problem can be a key to solve the tongue problem.
Is it possible to prevent tongue problems?
Some tongue problems are preventable by practicing good oral hygiene and eating a healthy, nutritious diet while some tongue conditions cannot be prevented at all, but symptoms may be managed with treatment.
Other tongue problems may be a by product of an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed. For example, signs of an HIV infection (or final stage of HIV infection, AIDS) often appear in the mouth along with other bodily symptoms. HIV testing is important in determining if HIV treatment and care is needed.
Exercising moderation or altogether quitting the habit of smoking and drinking alcohol will decrease the risk of developing oral cancer.
You can prevent or relieve tongue problems by practicing good dental hygiene on regular basis. Brushing, flossing and cleaning the tongue regularly removes foul smell, tastelessness and by taking out dirt coated on the tongue, teeth and mouth brings relish immediately.
Make it a habit to see your dentist for routine check-ups and cleaning’s.
Posted by- Dr Suprriya and Dr Shriya