4 Changes To Watch For On Your Tongue - Especially With Age | Envision Dental: Dentist in Marietta GA (2024)

4 Changes To Watch For On Your Tongue - Especially With Age | Envision Dental: Dentist in Marietta GA (1)

Tongue sticking out from the mouth. Woman shows tongue. Open mouth with tongue.

There’s no denying that there are some real advantages to getting older such as more wisdom and self-confidence. But the catch is that those perks come with changes to every part of your body, including your mouth and even your tongue. Although you may not spend much time thinking about your tongue, you might be surprised at what it can tell you about your dental health and overall well-being. And while a dentist in Marietta evaluates your tongue at each checkup, it’s still a good idea to watch for the following 4 signs that something else is going on.

1. You See White Patches or a White Coating
A white coating on your tongue or the back of your throat could be a sign of oral thrush and may be accompanied by a burning sensation or tenderness. People who wear dentures or have a weakened immune system are more susceptible to this condition. After making a diagnosis, a dentist may prescribe anti-fungal medication to treat it.
If you see white patches on your tongue, you may have leukoplakia. This condition occurs from an overgrowth of cells, typically in response to chronic irritation from smoking or chewing tobacco. In some cases it’s a precursor to oral cancer, so it’s important to have a dentist look at it.
2. Your Tongue Is Dark Red In Color
A healthy tongue is pink in color. If your tongue is dark red, it may indicate the following:
  • Vitamin deficiency – You may be low in folic acid or vitamin B-12, so it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor about checking your levels of these vitamins.
  • Allergies – If your tongue suddenly becomes dark red, swollen or tender, you could have an allergy to a medication, food, or oral hygiene product.
  • Geographic tongue – “Geographic tongue” refers to dark red spots on the tongue that resemble a map and migrate over time. This condition is usually harmless and not cause for concern.
3. You See Black “Hairs” On Your Tongue
Everyone’s tongue has small, hair-like papillae on the surface, which continue growing with age. In some cases, these papillae become quite long and begin to harbor bacteria that takes on a black color. While black hairy tongue isn’t serious, people with diabetes, poor oral hygiene, and those on chemotherapy or antibiotics are more susceptible to it. It can often be taken care of by thoroughly brushing the tongue each day.
4. Your Tongue Is Bumpy or Tender
A tender or bumpy tongue could be a sign of:
  • Canker sores – Canker sores have multiple causes (although stress is often involved) and appear as small, oval-shaped ulcers on the tongue.
  • Oral cancer – A sore or lesion that hasn’t gone away within two weeks should be evaluated by a dentist, as it could indicate oral cancer (even if isn’t painful).
  • Dry mouth – As people age, they tend to take more medications. One common side effect of many drugs is dry mouth, which can give the tongue a bumpy appearance. Dry mouth greatly increases the risk of cavities, so it’s important to talk to a dentist if you think you have it.

To age gracefully, one of the best things you can do is pay attention to what your body is telling you. With an awareness of these 4 “clues” from your tongue, you’ll be in a better position to maintain better oral and overall health.

Posted on behalf of Envision Dental

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4 Changes To Watch For On Your Tongue - Especially With Age | Envision Dental: Dentist in Marietta GA (2024)


What is the dentist looking for on your tongue? ›

Abnormal looking patches, lumps or spots could be a sign of mouth cancer and your dentist will look out for these during your check-up. Red patches could signal a condition called erythroplakia and white or grey patches may be leukoplakia, which could lead to cancer if untreated.

What are the oral changes in elderly people? ›

Older adults are at increased risk for root caries because of both increased gingival recession that exposes root surfaces and increased use of medications that produce xerostomia; approximately 50% of persons aged older than 75 years of age have root caries affecting at least one tooth.

What can a dentist tell from your tongue? ›

One of the most common indicators of poor dental health is a coated or discolored tongue. If your tongue appears white, yellow, or even black, it could be a sign of an underlying issue such as poor oral hygiene, dehydration, or even a fungal infection.

What are the common oral and dental problems in older people? ›

Cavities are common in older adults in part because more adults are keeping their teeth for their lifetime. Because older adults often have receding gums, cavities are more likely to develop at the root of the tooth. Dry mouth also causes bacteria to build up in the mouth more easily, leading to tooth decay.

What does a healthy tongue look like? ›

A healthy tongue is typically pink, reflecting good blood circulation and proper functioning of the mucous membranes. It should have a smooth texture, with small bumps called papillae covering the surface. These papillae contain taste buds, which allow us to experience different flavors.

What do doctors look for on your tongue? ›

Ryan Kauffman, M.D., an ear, nose and throat specialist at Piedmont, says most physicians go through a checklist when they inspect a patient's tongue. “We start with the worst case scenario and look for anything concerning, like ulcers, lesions, masses, and firmness,” he says.

What does a malnourished tongue look like? ›

A small, thin tongue could indicate dehydration or malnourishment. Unusual cracks, cuts, or bumps might be an early sign of pathological conditions and require immediate medical attention.

Can your tongue show signs of illness? ›

Medical conditions such as an autoimmune disease, gastritis, psoriasis, and jaundice can also cause a yellow tongue. Many things can cause a normally pink tongue to turn red. In some instances, the tongue may even take on the appearance of a strawberry with enlarged red taste buds dotting the surface.

Does a white tongue mean you're sick? ›

Although the appearance of white tongue may be alarming, the condition is usually harmless and temporary. However, white tongue can be an indication of some serious conditions, ranging from infection to a precancerous condition.

What is the tongue problem in the elderly? ›

Fissured tongue is the second most common tongue condition and is characterized by a deepening of normal tongue fissures and is usually associated with aging. Some medical conditions are linked to the fissured tongue and include Sjögren's syndrome, psoriasis, Down syndrome, and acromegaly.

What are the four common oral problems? ›

Most cases are dental caries (tooth decay), periodontal diseases, tooth loss and oral cancers. Other oral conditions of public health importance are orofacial clefts, noma (severe gangrenous disease starting in the mouth mostly affecting children) and oro-dental trauma.

How many teeth does the average 70 year old have? ›

The average number of teeth present in adults is 24.1 in the population aged 55-59 years, 22.4 in those aged 60-64 years, 19.4 in those aged 65-69 years, 16.8 in those aged 70-74 years, 13.6 in those aged 75-79 years, and 11.3 in those aged 80-84 years. Thus, the number of existing teeth decreases with age [5] .

Can a dentist diagnose tongue issues? ›

You can choose to see either a dentist or a doctor for this screening, although many people choose to see a dentist due to their specialized knowledge of oral health. If further testing is recommended due to an abnormal screening, your dentist will likely collaborate with your doctor on the next steps.

What are doctors looking for when they ask you to stick out your tongue? ›

The digitized images of the patient's tongue reveal discoloration, engorgement, texture and other factors that might be linked to illness. Smoothness and "beefiness" might reveal vitamin B12, iron, or folate deficiency, and anemia.

Why did the dentist pull on my tongue? ›

Then, using a small piece of gauze, your Dentist will gently pull your tongue to one side and then the other, to fully visualize the tongue's edges. The edges of the tongue are a common location for cancerous lesions to occur. They will likely feel the boarders of the tongue (again for hard spots) at the same time.

What does the color of your tongue tell you about your health? ›

A healthy tongue is pink in color. If your tongue color is white, yellow, orange, red, black, purple, gray, green or blue, it could mean you have an underlying health condition. If you have tongue discoloration that doesn't go away, tell your healthcare provider.


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