Your tongue is responsible for a lot of functions in your mouth, but chances are good that you really don’t think about it… until it’s giving you a problem, that is! We tend to take it for granted that our tongues will help us speak, chew, and swallow. When it’s swollen, painful, or looking different than it usually does, however, it’s easy to panic a bit. If you are worried about your tongue, making an appointment with your dentist will get you the quickest, most accurate information about what’s wrong. In the meantime, here are some common issues that might affect your tongue.
Inflamed Taste Buds
If you look at your tongue, you’ll notice the tiny bumps commonly known as taste buds. Most of the time, these bumps don’t give you any trouble at all and simply aid you in tasting your food. If one becomes inflamed, however, you might be surprised at how painful and irritating it is! Inflamed taste bud can occur due to biting your tongue or eating something spicy. The affected buds might be swollen and either darker pink or white. Most of the time, the condition goes away on its own within a few days. If your taste buds stay inflamed or it’s happening often, make an appointment with your dentist.
Sometimes, you might notice red patches on your tongue. They might or might not be more sensitive than the rest of your tongue. This is often caused by a geographic tongue, which is usually harmless and will pass on its own in most cases. The patches might seem to move around, and some people always have them. If a patch lasts longer than two weeks, you should see your dentist to rule out anything more serious.
If your tongue is bright red, a visit to your doctor might be in order. One cause is a vitamin deficiency, which can be remedied with the appropriate supplements. Another, however, is scarlet fever, which can develop after a strep infection. If you’ve recently had a sore throat and fever and were not treated with antibiotics (or if you stopped taking the antibiotics before the prescription was finished), it’s possible that strep bacteria have made their way throughout your body. It can cause a bright red tongue, a rash, and other problems. Go to the doctor immediately, because you will need prompt treatment to avoid further complications.
If you’ve been on an antibiotic or if you have a suppressed immune system, you might have thrush in your mouth. Thrush is a type of fungal infection. It causes white patches on the tongue and the inner lips and cheeks. You might be able to wipe off the patches, and there might be raw skin left behind. Your doctor or dentist can prescribe you the appropriate antifungal medication to get it under control.
A sore tongue can be very distracting and uncomfortable, even if you know that the cause is something minor and benign. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever might help. So can swishing with salt water. If you aren’t sure what is causing your sore, red, or otherwise abnormal tongue, see your dentist for an evaluation.
Creative Commons image by southtyrolean