Tongue Disorders

June 27, 2013
Mike Burns / / CC BY-SA

The tongue is an extremely important group of muscles that enable us to talk properly, to taste food and to swallow. A healthy tongue should be pink in color, and is covered with small nodules which are called papillae. Your tongue is constantly in use, and is something most of us take for granted until there’s a problem. Tongue problems can range from experiencing soreness to discoloration. There can be a huge number of reasons as to why tongue disorders can develop, but most aren’t serious and can be resolved pretty quickly. However some tongue disorders may be a symptom of a more serious condition such as oral cancer, vitamin deficiencies or AIDS. Anyone with a tongue disorder that doesn’t clear up within a short while should seek medical advice.

Developing a White Coating on the Tongue

One of the most common problems is experiencing a whitish coating on the tongue, and this can be caused by a number of different things including:


  • Oral thrush is a yeast infection that can develop in the mouth. It can cause white patches to develop on the tongue that can have a consistency similar to cottage cheese. This tongue disorders is most commonly seen in infants and the elderly, especially those who need dentures. It’s also found in people with compromised immune systems, for instance people with diabetes and those taking inhaled steroids for lung disease or asthma. This condition may also develop after antibiotic usage which may have killed off some of the good bacteria naturally present in the mouth. People with oral thrush are often recommended to eat live yogurt to help restore the good bacteria in the oral cavity. Sometimes medications may be necessary to tackle this infection.
  • Leukoplakia is a condition that can lead to white patches forming on the tongue. Although not generally a serious condition, leukoplakia can sometimes be an indication of oral cancer, and for this reason it’s important to seek medical advice as to why it has developed.
  • Oral lichen planus is characterized by the lacy appearance of raised white lines on the tongue. This condition often resolves itself and its exact cause can be difficult to determine. Anyone with this condition is advised to avoid smoking or using tobacco products, and to practice proper oral hygiene.


Developing a Red Tongue

Sometimes a healthy pink colored tongue can turn red, and a condition called Strawberry tongue can even develop which is where the taste buds become enlarged. This can be due to several things including:


  • Kawasaki syndrome can affect the blood vessels in the body, and is normally seen in children under the age of five. Other symptoms include a high fever, and sufferers may also experience swelling and redness in their hands and feet.
  • Being deficient in certain vitamins including vitamin B-12 and folic acid can cause the tongue to become redder.
  • Geographic tongue is a condition that causes a number of red spots to develop on the surface of the tongue; these may have a white border around them and their location on the tongue can change. This condition is generally harmless, but it is worth seeking treatment if it persists for more than two weeks.


Developing a black hairy tongue is one of the tongue disorders, this can be extremely disconcerting but probably doesn’t indicate anything serious. It’s more common amongst people who don’t practice good dental hygiene and those who are receiving chemotherapy, as well as diabetics and people on antibiotics. The condition occurs when the papillae on the tongue become excessively long making them more likely to harbor bacteria which when they grow may look black in appearance and this could be a tongue disorders.


For more information about tongue disorders, contact Dr. Goad, your Richardson, TX dentist at Richardson Cosmetic Dentistry today.tongue disorders


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