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Tongue Problems – All About The Tongue

Excerpt: The teeth and the gums are not the only structures in the mouth, the tongue is an incredibly important organ...
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Tongue Problems

Tongue problems can happen because of poor oral care, many people may not be aware that they should brush the tongue as well as the teeth.

The teeth and the gums are not the only structures in the mouth, the tongue is an incredibly important organ. There are lots of issues that can happen with the tongue.

What Is The Tongue Exactly?

The tongue is a muscle-based organ, it’s attached to the jaw, the hyoid bone, and the skull, it even extends back further than you can see! The outer covering of the tongue consists of a wet mucosa. The top of the tongue contains papillae, the small dots on the tongue that provide surface area, these papillae contain your taste buds.

Are Tongue Problems Serious?

The health problems you may experience from your tongue, often aren’t serious. However, you should still pay attention to your tongue because it can be a great indicator of underlying conditions. If you experience any significant tongue signs or symptoms, you should ask your dentist about them.


Tongue Problem Symptoms

There are many symptoms the tongue can show, these symptoms may mean you have an underlying condition, so it may be impossible for you to diagnose them properly on your own:

  • Loss or change in taste – Changes in the ability to taste flavors or a complete loss of taste.
  • Difficulty moving your tongue
  • Change in your tongue color – The tongue may show patches of different colors.
  • Pain or discomfort in the tongue
  • Burning sensation on your tongue.
  • A furry or hairy appearance
Tongue issues can come on very suddenly. For example, your tongue can cramp up, just like any other muscle, this may mean you are dehydrated or have an insufficient amount of a certain mineral, or it could just be random. If the symptom seems malignant, or it has gone on for a while, it is time to see a dentist. Even if it doesn’t seem like a serious issue, you can always call and ask if you should be worried.
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What Causes Tongue Problems?

If you are experiencing tongue problems, you might be surprised to hear that is in fact another issue entirely. Typically, if you do have tongue issues, it’s not the tongue’s problem.

Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS)

BMS goes by a couple of different names, glossodynia, glossopyrosis, and stomatopyrosis. It’s a condition that can literally make your mouth, tongue, or lips burning. BMS can cause discomfort to pain depending on how bad the sensation is.

Tongue burning can have many different causes, including, exposure to irritants, and post-menopausal people.


Macroglossia is often referred to as “big tongue” or “enlarged tongue”. This is a condition you can be born with, or diagnosed with later on. Macroglossia will often happen because of an underlying issue, such as:
  • Beckwith Wiedemann syndrome
  • Hunter syndrome
  • Down syndrome
  • Pompe disease
  • Maroteux – Lamy syndrome
  • Idiopathic muscular hypertrophy
  • Adenoid hyperplasia
  • Venolymphatic malformations like hemangioma and lymphatic malformation

Atrophic Glossitis

Atrophic glossitis will cause your tongue to miss some of, or all of its papillae, making the surface smooth to touch. This issue can result in difficulties with taste. You may also experience, burning, pain, or numbness. Some underlying conditions may include:

  • Nutrient deficiency, such as a lack of sufficient pyridoxine, folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12, zinc, iron, and vitamin E
  • protein deficiency
  • candidiasis
  • Helicobacter pylori infection
  • Insufficient saliva production

Herpes Stomatitis

Cold sores can form from herpes stomatitis on the lips, gums, throat, and tongue. You also may experience, a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fever, headaches, nausea, and other aches or pains.

Black Tongue Or Hairy Tongue

Black tongue or hairy tongue is a condition that occurs when the papillae develop abnormally. This abnormal development can cause your tongue to look black and hairy, brown, green, or blue!

This condition can be caused by antibiotics or radiation to the head or neck.

Other Causes Of Tongue Pain

Some other causes of tongue pain include:


  • Injury
  • Infection
  • Inflamed papillae
  • A canker sore
  • Tongue cancer
  • Anemia
  • Irritating dentures or braces
  • Neuralgia
  • Geographic tongue

Other Causes Of Change In Tongue Color

Your tongue can be other colors than its normal healthy colors, if your tongue appears to be a different color than normal you should inquire about it immediately. 
The tongue can change and appear to be:
  • Bright Pink – Deficiency in iron, folic acid, or B-12, possibly an allergic reaction to gluten.
  • White – Often a result of tobacco and alcohol use, poor oral hygiene, or candida infection.
  • White or red patches – Leukoplakia and erythroplakia can cause white or red patches, which may be an indication of cancer.
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How Are Tongue Problems Diagnosed?

As we mentioned before, if you do see a problem occur with your tongue, you should make an appointment since the dentist will most likely diagnose another issue that is the underlying cause.

You should also see a dentist or doctor if you have:


  • Sores that came back bigger than before.
  • Recurring or frequent sores or pain.
  • Problems that last 2 weeks or longer.
  • Tongue pain that is not improved with medication.
  • Tongue problems with fever
  • Difficulty eating or drinking

You’ll want to closely observe these issues to answer these questions:


  • How long have you had the symptoms?
  • Has there been any change in taste?
  • Can you describe the pain you have?
  • Is it difficult to move your tongue?
  • How often/if ever, do you use alcohol or tobacco?

Who Do I See About Tongue Problems?

Since tongue problems are often the result of something else, the dentist is a good choice. The dentist will be able to refer you to the specific doctor you will need if it is a general health issue.

Home Care For The Tongue

Having good oral health care will help prevent a significant amount of problems for the tongue. To reduce the risk of tongue problems, you can also do the following:
  • Avoid using tobacco products.
  • Avoid smoking marijuana
  • Avoid hot beverages
  • Regular salt water mouth rinse

Frequently Asked Questions

For oral-related matters, you should see your dentist first. Your dentist will refer you if it is out of their scope.

Probably not without a medical degree. One tongue problem can mean many different things.

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