Tongue Problem Basics
Though often hailed as "the strongest muscle in the body," the tongue is actually made up of a group of muscles that allow us to taste food, swallow, and talk. A healthy tongue is pink and covered with small nodules called papillae.
Because you use your tongue constantly, it can be frustrating and uncomfortable when you experience tongue problems, including discoloration and soreness. There are a variety of causes for a number of common tongue symptoms. Fortunately, the majority of tongue problems are not serious and most can be resolved quickly.
In some instances, however, a discolored or
painful tongue can indicate more serious conditions, including
AIDS, or oral cancer. For this reason, it is important to seek medical advice if you experience any ongoing problems with your tongue.
What Causes a White Tongue?
There are a number of things that can cause a whitish coating or white spots to develop on the tongue, including:
Leukoplakia. This condition causes cells in the mouth to grow excessively. That, in turn, leads to the formation of white patches inside the mouth, including on the tongue. Although not dangerous on its own, leukoplakia can be a precursor to cancer. So it is important for your dentist to determine the cause of white patches on your tongue. Leukoplakia can develop when
the tongue has been irritated and is often found in people who use
Oral thrush. Also known as candidiasis, oral thrush is a yeast infection that develops inside the mouth. The condition results in white patches that are often cottage cheese-like in consistency on the surfaces of the mouth and tongue. Oral thrush is most commonly seen in infants and the elderly, especially denture wearers, or in people with compromised immune systems. People with diabetes and people taking inhaled steroids for asthma or lung disease also can
also get thrush. Oral thrush is more likely to occur after the use of antibiotics, which may kill the "good" bacteria in the mouth. Eating plain yogurt with live and active cultures may help restore the proper fauna in your mouth. Additionally, medications may be used to combat the infection.
Oral lichen planus. If you have a network of raised white lines on your tongue that has a lace-like appearance, you may be suffering from oral lichen planus. Doctors are often unable to determine the cause of this condition, which often resolves on its own. Practicing proper dental hygiene, avoiding tobacco, and limiting your consumption of foods that cause irritation to your mouth may helpful.
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