Why do dentists check the tongue?


When attending a routine check-up, you may have found yourself wondering why your dentist performs a quick check of your tongue. This is because the tongue provides important clues as to the state of your overall dental and general health. By checking the tongue, your dentist is able to identify any areas of concern and propose appropriate treatments to help you maintain optimal oral health. Below, we will share some of the top signs and symptoms dentists are looking for when checking your tongue. 

 What are Dentists Looking for When Checking the Tongue? 

 Like most people, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about your tongue. It plays an important role in our ability to speak, chew, swallow and taste but it is easy to take it for granted. Preventive dental care is a practice aimed at reducing your risk of major dental issues by maintaining good oral hygiene and attending routine examinations. Your dentist examines your tongue to rule out the presence of abnormal growths, infection or nutritional deficiency which may adversely impact your oral and general health. If anything is detected, an appropriate treatment plan will be formulated. 

Some common signs and symptoms which dentists look for when doing a tongue examination include: 

1. White Spots 

White spots on the tongue can be an indicator for leukoplakia, oral thrush or canker sores. You may also develop a white coating over the tongue, which is caused by excess bacteria within the mouth. A healthy human tongue should appear pink, with only small bumps (papillae) along the upper surface. If you notice any white sores or coating, you should schedule a consultation with your dentist immediately. 

2. Red Bumps/Sores 

People can develop canker sores around the tongue for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes they are caused by allergies to a particular food, but more commonly they develop as a result of injury or due to diseases/disorders such as celiac disease, immune deficiencies, cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Any abnormal bumps which fail to clear should be seen to immediately.  

3. Hairy Texture 

Having an excess amount of dead skin cells and bacteria around the mouth can result in a temporary condition known as black hairy tongue. The tongue takes on a dark and “furry” appearance as the dead skin cells accumulate on top of the papillae. Tongue discolouration will be visible, and you may also experience bad breath and/or a metallic taste in the mouth. This condition is most common amongst smokers and people taking antibiotics or prescription medications. It will usually clear up within 1-2 weeks, providing you maintain good oral hygiene practices which include using a tongue scraper.  

 4. Oral Cancer 

People of all ages can experience oral cancer, although rates are highest amongst those with a history of heavy alcohol and tobacco consumption. This is the primary reason why dentist check your tongue. Symptoms of oral cancer can show up around the surface of the tongue, usually in the form of cuts, ulcers or scabs which fail to heal and may bleed when touched. Early treatment is vital, so you should not delay seeking treatment if you notice any sudden or abnormal changes around your mouth.  

Time for a Check-Up? Visit Central Brunswick Dental Care Today 

 Checking the tongue is an important part of a routine oral examination. Attending regular dental visits will help in ensuring you maintain optimal oral health all year round. If you’re due for a check-up, please call Central Brunswick Dental Care today on (07) 3216 1100 to book an appointment. We look forward to seeing you soon.