Contrary to popular belief, visits to a dentist are not solely for the sake of your teeth and gums. If you pay close attention during these check-ups, you will notice your dentist employing a tongue depressor to investigate the state of your tongue. What some patients are surprised to discover is this measure is not simply an afterthought. Instead, dentists will pay close attention to your tongue to detect the potential of any underlying medical conditions that are yet to be diagnosed. So why would your dentist assess the condition of your tongue?

Assess the colour of your tongue

A healthy tongue should be pinkish. While some tongues may have a thin, whitish film coating them, the general colour should not deviate from this pink hue. That being said, any lingering changes in colour that do not stem from foods or drink you have recently ingested could be a cause for concern. For instance, a bright red hue is usually indicative of a hormonal imbalance, so the dentist could refer you to an endocrinologist for further tests.

On the other hand, if your tongue is quite pale, it may mean you are lacking certain vitamins in your diet. Hence, the dentist could recommend dietary changes to improve your health. Lastly, while a thin, white film tends to be normal, white patches on your tongue are not. These patches could point to an untreated fungal infection, which would require medical intervention.

Assess the texture of your tongue

Although tiny papillae, also referred to as nodules, on the surface of your tongue are normal since they help you taste what you eat and drink, the rest of your tongue should feel soft and fleshy. Any changes to this texture could be deemed abnormal depending on what is causing it. One of the first things that the dentist will look for is the presence of bumps on your tongue, as these could be indicative of a viral infection. You should also bear in mind that having an extremely smooth tongue is also out of the ordinary.

In this scenario, a perfectly smooth tongue could mean you are expensing an adverse reaction to prescription drugs. However, it could also demonstrate a nutrient deficiency. The third thing that a dentist will look for when assessing the texture of your tongue is the presence of strange hairs. While these hair-like structures may simply be elongated papillae, they may also come about when your immune system is compromised. Therefore, the dentist must investigate them further to determine whether the hairy growths are symptomatic of a health condition.

For more information, contact a dentist near you.