What Your Tongue Says About Your Dental Health

When many people think of dental health, they immediately think of their teeth. But your tongue plays an important part of the equation, as well. The state of your tongue can even constitute a dental emergency. Not only can it tell tales about your dental health, but it also gives clues about your overall health.

Here’s what you need to know.

Your Tongue and Bad Breath

Your Tongue and Bad BreathOne of the most common dental conditions is halitosis, chronic bad breath. Not everyone with halitosis fully realizes how bad their breath smells because it is difficult to gauge yourself. The tongue can give some pretty significant clues. If you do have halitosis, you are far from alone. The American Dental Association reports that the condition has affected about half of Americans at one point or another.

When halitosis develops, it does so because bacteria build up on the back of the tongue. This presents as a thick white film. If you can see this on the back of your tongue, there is likely a foul odor that goes with it.  Factors contributing to halitosis include eating many smelly foods, such as onions and garlic; being less than thorough on oral hygiene; dry mouth; and medication side effects. Your tongue may look fine with a dry mouth, but you’ll notice a dryness that goes beyond typical thirst. Persistent dry mouth is sometimes a side effect of medication. But it can also indicate the condition of xerostomia caused by insufficient saliva.

Finding a Lasting Solution

Many people suspect they have bad breath or struggle with dry mouth, that try to cure themselves with over-the-counter products. In this futile pursuit, billions of dollars are spent in the U.S. each year. When all food particles are not removed by regular brushing and flossing, you also become more at risk for gum disease. This problem can be further exacerbated by smoking which encourages even more bacteria breeding.

Quality dental hygiene products are the first defense against bad breath and gum disease. At-home options are not always adequate. If you have red or tender gums, a bad taste in your mouth, or lose teeth, consider these signs that you need extra professional help.

Other Health Concerns Revealed By The Tongue

Other Health Concerns Revealed By The TongueSeveral other things can happen to the tongue’s appearance that can be a sign of a health condition that needs attention. Black spots or “hairs” can signify a bacterial or fungal infection. Spots on your tongue may mean your immune system is compromised. An enlarged tongue is a possible symptom of hypothyroidism. Tongue bumps or inflamed taste buds may indicate oral cancer, which needs investigation.

When a case gets bad, you will likely see something is not right in your mirror but don’t rely on this. Symptoms can take a while to become obvious, meaning the problem has worsened. Regular dental check-ups can often catch many of these symptoms when they are most treatable. Like most things, the longer you wait to seek the treatment you need, the more uphill the path to healing will likely be.


If you suspect your tongue doesn’t feel or look right, don’t dismiss it. You will not get over or learn to live with this. We’re committed to helping you find real solutions to your detailed health needs. To learn more about keeping your tongue and entire mouth healthy, contact your local dentists in Mesa or Phoenix to schedule an appointment.

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