What Your Tongue Says About Your Health
What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

What’s on My Tongue?

Bumps, patches, and spots in your mouth can be harmless. But sometimes, they can give clues to what’s going on with your overall health. Infections, stress, medication issues, and even aging can make their marks on your tongue. Find out what your tongue is telling you and when you should see your doctor or dentist.

White Patches

Creamy white spots could be thrush, a fungal infection (shown here). It often happens after an illness or medications throw off the balance of bacteria in your mouth. White patches that look lacy could be lichen planus, which means your immune system is attacking the tissues in your mouth. If you see hard, flat, white areas that can’t be scraped away, it could be leukoplakia, which is linked to cancer. Let your dentist know about any white patches you see.

“Hair” on Your Tongue

If your tongue has a coating that looks like black, brown, or white fur, you might have hairy tongue. Those “hairs” are proteins that turn normal, small bumps into longer strands, where food and bacteria get caught. It should go away when you brush or scrape your tongue. If you have hairy, white patches that you can’t scrape off, it might be oral hairy leukoplakia. It can happen to people infected with viruses like Epstein-Barr or HIV.

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