What is this on my tongue? And, is it normal?
First, let’s establish what a normal, healthy tongue should look like. It should be pink in color and covered with papillae—little, round looking, raised bumps. Those little projections give our tongue texture, which can get irritated from time to time. Irritations can cause numerous symptoms ranging from small sore spots to raised, white patches. Luckily, many irritations resolve themselves within a week or two. This includes those painful, round canker sores (apthous ulcers), which normally take 7-10 days to go away. If they haven’t, it’s time to see your dentist.
Fun Fact: If someone sticks their tongue out at you in Tibet, it does not have a negative or playful meaning like it does in the U.S. Tibetan people stretch out tongues to show respect and as a courtesy.
If something looks or feels strange, have it examined, even if it’s not painful.
Changes in the tongue vary from small, round sore spots to larger patches of thickened tissue. Many are caused by irritation from physical or chemical sources. The most common being: ill-fitting dentures (areas that have chronic irritation/friction), sharp or rough edges on teeth or fillings, tobacco products, poor hygiene, dry mouth, and alcohol. Bacterial and fungal (yeast) infections can also cause white patches or lesions on the tongue. Mayo Clinic has a great resource for reading more about white infections of the tongue, however, the most important thing to remember is that everyone is different and no two cases are the same. If you have any areas on your tongue or inside your mouth, that seem strange to you, have it checked out. Many times, once the source of the irritation is removed, it’ll resolve itself.
It’s important to be aware of what’s normal for you and your own body.
When you brush and floss your teeth, make sure to brush your tongue as well. The mouth is full of bacteria—both good and bad. A layer of white film on the surface of the tongue may contain a mix of bacteria, dead cells and food debris. Brushing your tongue daily also helps with bad breath.
Take a look at your tongue in the mirror. Take a look at the floor of your mouth, underneath, and on the sides of your tongue. Be aware of any new, unusual lumps, or patchy areas (white or red) that weren’t there before. If they haven’t gone away on their own within two weeks, call us. Don’t let any unusual or abnormal looking area go too long without being checked! Bleeding areas of the mouth, along with soreness and tenderness is not normal. This includes our gums when we floss.
If Stu chews shoes, should Stu choose the shoes he chews? *Tongue Twister
Common signs of oral cancer:
- A sore that doesn’t heal or bleeds
- A growth, lump, or thick area of tissue, red velvety lesions in the floor of the mouth/sides of tongue
- Poorly fitting dentures with chronic irritation to the tissues
- Pain in the tongue that doesn’t go away
- Pain with chewing or swallowing/sore throat
Having a regular, preventative dental examination twice per year is highly recommended. Catching oral cancer in its earliest stage is so important. If going to the dentist makes you too nervous or anxious, ask us about sedation dentistry. We can even prescribe you a medication to help you relax the night before your appointment! We want you to feel comfortable and relaxed in our office, and never afraid to have your mouth checked.
Dr. Potts is a gentle, caring dentist uses the most advanced materials and procedures available. He practices comfortable, health-centered dentistry, with a strong emphasis on getting to know each patient. In addition technical proficiency, Dr. Potts is a careful listener. He makes sure to understand what you want and will explain beforehand what treatment is best for your individual needs, along with all options available to you.