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Bumps and spots on your tongue can be normal – but at what point is it necessary to have a doctor or dentist check it out, to be certain?

A “normal” tongue, the group of muscles attached to the bottom of your mouth, looks pinkish-red, with variations in surface texture. Any change in appearance could indicate a potential health problem, making regular check-ups with your dentist the first and best line of defense. While most changes are harmless, there are a few that could indicate a more serious condition.

So what exactly can your tongue tell you about your health?

White patches or coating: Areas that cannot be wiped away are a possible sign of yeast infection, oral thrush or a weakened immune system.

Bright red tongue: This could be caused by red-colored foods or a reaction to acidic foods.  It can also be a potential indicator of a strep infection or a Vitamin B12 or Iron deficiency.

Black tongue: This is usually a harmless condition that can be caused by medications, smoking, or poor oral hygiene

Tongue swelling: Allergies, a reaction to medicine, or injury — from a hot liquid or tongue biting — are usually to blame for a swollen tongue.

Sore or bumpy: Canker sores have no known cause but usually go away within a few days.  Any pain when moving your tongue or changes in taste should not be ignored if it persists longer than two weeks.

So go ahead, stick out your tongue — and be sure to pay attention to what it is trying to tell you!

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