The surface of your tongue may sometimes change its colour. This change may be as a result of several factors including poor oral hygiene, injury or diseases, among others. The discolouration may appear as multiple or solitary lesions/patches, which may be uniform, speckled, regular or irregular in shape, among other descriptions.
Some of the common conditions that cause tongue discolouration include;
i. Geographic tongue: This condition appears as smooth red spots (of irregular shapes) on the side or top surface of the tongue. These spots can enlarge and change shape. Although it may be harmless and may also clear on its own with time, you may have pain or some burning sensation especially after taking hot, spicy, salty, or sour foods.
ii. Black hairy tongue: This is a common oral condition that appears as black, brown, or gray patches on the tongue, which usually look like they are growing hair. It is commonly caused by poor oral hygiene, which leads to building up of oral bacteria and keratin on the tongue surface. However, it can be as result of smoking/chewing tobacco-based products, prolonged tea/coffee drinking habits and/or certain medications like antibiotics. Black spots can also occur if small amounts of silver filling materials (amalgam) come into contact with the tongue during a filling procedure.
iii. Leukoplakia: This occurs as white or grey irregularly shaped patches that form on the tongue. They may also occur on the floor of the mouth, on the gums, or on the inside of the cheek. The condition is mostly associated with using tobacco –based products, alcohol, and repetitive trauma to the tongue, e.g. trauma related with dentures. Sometimes, leukoplakia can contain precancerous or cancerous cells.
iv. Oral thrush: This appears as creamy white patches, (sometimes with red lesions) on the tongue. These patches can also spread to any part of the mouth and the throat. It is also known as oral candidiasis and occurs when a yeast infection develops inside your mouth.
v. Canker sores: These appear on the tongue as small, shallow, whitish lesions. The condition is associated with allergic responses to bacteria in the mouth, HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, folate deficiency, and minor trauma to the tongue, among others. These sores can be very painful, making eating or talking difficult. The condition is also known as aphthous ulcers.
vi. Tongue cancer: This usually appears like lesions or tumors, which do not heal, and can develop on any part of the tongue. If traumatized, they may bleed.
vii. Transient lingual papillitis: This condition is commonly referred to as lie bumps. It occurs as small white or red spots/bumps on the tongue, which cause discomfort.
Preventing Tongue Discolouration
Some of the ways that can reduce the risk include;
• Ensuring proper oral hygiene e.g. brushing your tongue gently and regularly
• Avoiding tobacco-based products
• Avoiding alcohol or drinking in moderation if you must
• Reporting any unusual symptoms of the tongue to your doctor
• Having regular dental check-ups
Whether it is a normal physiological reaction or a disease, it is important to visit a dental professional, who will tell you why you have that strange colouring on your tongue. Chat with us online or Call us on 0716 521043 or book appointment online today!