Hendricks County residents use their tongues for chewing, swallowing and talking. The tongue is a group of muscles that carry out these specific tasks. Typically, a healthy tongue has a pink to red hue. However, sometimes you may experience tongue discoloration, which can be a bit alarming. But what do abnormal colors of the tongue mean?

White Tongue

White patches or coating on the tongue may indicate:

  • Thrush – Oral thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth caused by candida fungus. Thrush is common in babies, the elderly, and people who wear dentures. Also people with weakened immune systems or certain illnesses, like diabetes, are more apt to develop thrush. Additionally, medications like antibiotics and corticosteroids can cause the good bacteria in your mouth to die and the fungus candida to grow out of control.
  • Leukoplakia – Characterized by white patches that can’t be wiped off (unlike a yeast infection), leukoplakia is an overgrowth of cells on the tongue’s surface. It may be caused by chronic irritation to the mouth from tobacco use. Leukoplakia increases your risk of developing oral cancer.
  • Iron deficiency anemia or pernicious anemia – A pale (almost white), smooth tongue can be caused by a deficiency in iron or vitamin B12.

Red Tongue

While most Hendricks County residents have tongue colors that range from pink to red, some people may have tongues that are more red than others. However, if you experience a red tongue coloration that’s abnormal for you, it may indicate:

  • Vitamin deficiency – A strawberry-red colored tongue may be caused by a lack of vitamin B12, niacin or folic acid.
  • Geographic tongue – A harmless condition in which your tongue has smooth, red patches with raised borders, giving your tongue a map-like appearance. In some people, spicy or acidic foods can trigger this condition.

Blue Tongue

A blue tongue is a sign of a serious condition requiring medical attention. It’s a sign of cyanosis – a lack of oxygen to the tongue and other tissues due to pneumonia, acute respiratory distress, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congenital heart disease, poisoning, or suffocation.

See Your Doctor or Dentist

Since tongue discolorations can indicate harmless, moderate or very serious conditions, see your doctor or dentist for diagnosis. Dr. Jon Erickson at Danville Family Dentistry, located in Hendricks County, can examine your tongue and evaluate your symptoms to determine the cause of your tongue discoloration. Once a cause has been identified, he can recommend a treatment plan if needed. If you’re experiencing a tongue discoloration, call Danville Family Dentistry at 317-745-4400 to schedule an appointment today.