What Tongue Color Means for Oral Health

It might surprise you to learn that there’s a lot you can tell about your health from the appearance of your tongue. As dental care professionals, we can see a variety of health problems show up in oral exams. Your tongue is one such factor in how we can tell if you have underlying health issues that may need to be addressed. You don’t have to wait to see us. Check out this helpful guide of what tongue color says about overall health.

girl wearing rose colored glasses sticking out her tongue

Pink Tongue

A pink tongue is normal. A light pink tongue with some white spots in a sign of a healthy tongue and does not indicate underlying health issues.

Black Tongue

Black tongue may be caused by certain medications. Some people may have a reaction to antacids that cause a blackish hue to appear on the tongue. It’s not a cause for alarm and should go away when you stop taking the medicine.

White Tongue

White tongue can indicate thrush or a fungal infection. Some with weakened immune systems may develop these issues in the mouth and on the tongue.

Bright Red Tongue

Bright red tongue is usually a sign of inflammation. It may mean there is an infection or heart condition present. It can also be a sign of Kawasaki syndrome or scarlet fever, although these are more rare conditions.

Blue Tongue

Blue tongue may signify blood stagnation and respiratory problems.

Yellow Tongue

Yellow tongue can be a symptom of liver issues. Jaundice, or the yellowing appearance of eyes, nails, and skin, can also affect the tongue.

Brown Tongue

Brown tongue can be caused by brown foods like coffee. Hairy tongue can also cause a brown or blackish appearance. This is caused by elongated proteins of the tongue when they retain food and bacteria. If you scrape your tongue well with a toothbrush, it should improve. If it doesn’t tell us or your doctor.

Smooth Tongue

Smooth tongue may indicate a vitamin deficiency. It can also be a sign of an infection or autoimmune disease.

Bumpy Tongue

Bumpy tongue can be caused by canker sores, “lie bumps”, or a virus. Most should go away on their own. If they don’t you should let us know or tell your physician. Bumps that don’t go away could be caused by oral cancer.

If you notice changes in the color and texture of your tongue, don’t panic. Call us and we’ll assess what we see. You can also talk to your physician about these problems, particularly if they are causing discomfort or pain. We want you to keep us informed of any changes to your medical history, and stay on top of your oral care routine.

To ask us any additional questions about oral health, or to schedule your next visit, contact our office today!

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