Stick Your Tongue Out

Have you ever wondered why your dentist grabs your tongue with gauze or asks you to stick it out?  Believe it or not, your tongue can tell us quite a bit about your health and habits.


When it comes to tongues, you basically want some variation of pink.  Yellow usually means that there’s some type of fungal infection or gastric problems.  White indicates bacterial infections and very pale pink could be a sign that oxygen is not getting everywhere it needs to throughout the body.  Dark brown and grey makes us wonder if problem habits like smoking, and poor diet are the culprit although some medications can have the same effect.

Shape and Texture

A healthy tongue has some texture and projections that aren’t noticeable at a distance.  Generally you want a consistent pebbled texture on the top of your tongue and symmetrical textures along the sides and underneath.  When normal bumps made of keratin start to elongate or stain, we may ask if you’ve recently been taking antibiotics or if you aren’t cleaning your tongue well enough.  Don’t be alarmed if you have some flat spots though because a percentage of the population has a condition called geographic tongue.


Although the five basic tastes are great when everything is working well, alterations in those tastes can be quite disturbing.  Some of the most common causes of taste disorders are respiratory and middle ear infections, exposure to certain chemicals or medications, and sometimes trauma. More painful sensations like burning tongue syndrome, canker sores and pinpoint pain on specific taste buds might be coming from nutritional deficiencies or dry mouth.

As you can see, there are numerous conditions that can be diagnosed by a careful tongue examination.  Since cancers destroy healthy tissue, we take tongue examinations very seriously and so should you.  When you brush your teeth, take a minute to brush or scrape your tongue as well.  If you feel or see anything out of the ordinary, call us right away so we can help you find the cause.