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Your tongue: what it tells you about your health

Your tongue: what it tells you about your health

Created: September 26, 2022 | Updated: March 22, 2024

Is your tongue healthy? Your tongue is more than just a palate cleanser. It is a powerful organ that helps you taste, talk and eat. So without a tongue, there is no tasty and dirty taste! But did you know that there is also a relationship between your tongue and your health? In fact, the colour, texture and shape of your tongue can give signals about underlying problems.

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The healthy tongue

A lot of people don’t think about it, but the health of your tongue is very important indeed. After all, your tongue says a lot about the general health of your mouth. It is therefore a good idea to study your tongue from time to time. That way, you can monitor whether it still looks healthy.

What does a normal tongue look like?

Every tongue is unique. You can take this quite literally, as scientists assume that everyone has a unique tongue print! Nevertheless, it is relatively easy to distinguish a healthy tongue from an unhealthy one. This is done based on the colour, size and structure of the tongue.

  • Has a pink to light red colour.
  • Is moist and smooth.
  • Has small bumps (papillae) that contain taste buds.
  • Is neither too big nor too small.
  • Has no discolouration, bumps or cracks.

Healthy colour of your tongue

It may seem trivial, but your tongue colour can tell you quite a lot according to research. A normal tongue has a light pink to light red colour. However, if your tongue is on the yellow side, it might indicate jaundice. You may also suffer from a painful tongue. 1 In turn, a bright red tongue could be a sign of vitamin B deficiency, celiac disease or anaemia. A normal tongue, of course, also has a healthy underside. In a normal, healthy tongue, there are two veins at the bottom. These veins should not look purple or be swollen.

  • Yellow: Jaundice, smoking, too much coffee or tea.
  • White: White deposits (bacteria), fungal infection.
  • Red: Vitamin B deficiency, anaemia, inflammation.
  • Black: Fungal infection, smoking, medications.

Healthy tongue

Normal size of the tongue

A healthy tongue cannot be felt in the mouth. Nevertheless, the tongue may (temporarily) be slightly larger than normal. This is the case, for example, if you have bitten your tongue, or burned it.

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Healthy structure of the tongue

Papples and bumps on the tongue

There are small bumps on the healthy tongue: these are the taste buds. If your tongue feels rough, it may be slightly irritated by certain foods.

Smooth pale tongue

An overly smooth, pale tongue may be caused by an iron deficiency or anaemia. You may also suffer from a landcard tongue.

Landcard tongue

A geographic tongue involves smooth, red spots on the tongue. These are caused by the tongue being slightly inflamed. The taste buds are missing in these places. It is a harmless condition that often goes away on its own.

Hairy tongue

With a hairy tongue, it feels like there are hairs on the tongue. These hairs are actually enlarged taste buds. The condition is accompanied by discolouration of the tongue and is usually caused by poor oral hygiene.

Tongue scraping with a tongue scraper

White ting and tongue scraping

Some people suffer from a white tongue. In this condition, there is a coloured mash on the tongue. This mash can be yellow, white or black in colour. A white or yellow tongue is often caused by bacteria, while a black tongue is more likely to be caused by coffee or tobacco.

Tips for a healthy tongue

To keep your tongue healthy, it is important to take good care of it. Use a tongue cleaner regularly, brush your tongue with it and rinse your mouth occasionally with mouthwash. This will help you prevent bad breath. Insecure about your breath? Read more about other methods to fix bad breath here.

  • Good oral hygiene: Brush your teeth twice a day and use a tongue cleaner.
  • Healthy diet: Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grain products.
  • Drink enough water: Stay hydrated to avoid dry tongue.
  • Avoid smoking: Smoking can cause discolouration and other problems.
  • Regular dental visits: Get your teeth and tongue checked for abnormalities.
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Frequently asked questions

A normal tongue is slightly lumpy, slightly pink to red and has no odour.

To prevent an unhealthy tongue, good oral hygiene is very important. In addition to your teeth, brush your tongue and use a tongue scraper to remove dead cells and bacteria

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