Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

3610 N. Josey Ln. Suite 104, Carrollton, TX
972.395.9292

What’s That on My Tongue?

What Causes a Red, White or Black Tongue?Given that we use our tongue constantly throughout the day — to speak, eat, swallow and more — it can be extremely noticeable and frustrating when there is a problem with it, whether the problem is a cut, discoloration or something else. Here, Dr. Darian Hampton discusses some of the factors that can cause changes in the appearance of a normal, healthy tongue, which is pink and coated with small bumps called papillae.

White Tongue

Several things can cause the appearance of a white tongue, including leukoplakia, which is a condition that causes the excessive growth of cells in the mouth. This abnormal cell growth can lead to the development of white patches on the tongue and elsewhere in the mouth. The condition itself is not dangerous, but it could be a precursor to oral cancer. If you notice white patches on your tongue, contact Dr. Hampton so he can perform an exam.

Another possible cause of a white tongue is oral thrush, a yeast infection in the mouth. Oral thrush usually occurs in infants and older adults, whose immune systems may be weakened. It can also occur after taking antibiotics that destroy the “good” bacteria in the mouth. Eating yogurt with active cultures or visiting Dr. Hampton for a medication prescription can help treat the problem.

Red Tongue

There are many possible causes of a red tongue, including certain vitamin deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamin B-12. Scarlet fever is another possible culprit. If you have both a red tongue and high fever, contact your doctor immediately. Scarlet fever requires treatment with antibiotics. In children under the age of 5, a red tongue might be a symptom of Kawasaki syndrome, which affects the blood vessels in the body. Children with Kawasaki syndrome may also have a very high fever and swelling in the feet and hands.

Black, Hairy Tongue

That’s right, a condition appearing to be black hair on the tongue does exist. Surely, the mere thought of developing this condition is unsettling — but it is not a serious problem. The papillae on the tongue grow throughout one’s lifetime. Some people have extremely long papillae that do not get worn down by daily oral functions, as they normally would. This makes the papillae more likely to harbor bacteria that can appear black or dark. The excessively long papillae might look like hairs on the tongue. Poor oral hygiene, antibiotic use and chemotherapy are possible causes of this condition.

Excessively Bumpy or Sore Tongue

There are a host of possible causes behind a very bumpy or sore tongue. Many of the factors that can cause a sore or extremely bumpy tongue are nothing to worry about, such as temporary canker sores on the tongue. Postmenopausal women sometimes feel as though their tongue is burning, due to changes in hormones. However, having a sore or lump on your tongue that does not resolve itself within one or two weeks could be a sign of oral cancer, so you should contact Dr. Hampton for an oral exam if you experience this scenario.

Need an Expert Opinion?

Again, most changes in the appearance of the tongue are temporary and benign. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry, so contact the Hamptons Family and Cosmetic Dentistry if you notice a change in the appearance of your tongue that lasts longer than a few days.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Hampton for an oral exam, contact the Hamptons Family and Cosmetic Dentistry by calling (972) 395-9292.