Tongue problems and the colour of your tongue
If your tongue is not a normal pale pink in colour, this may indicate one or more tongue problems related to a disease or dietary deficiency. The following tongue colours may indicate disorders:
Black: This is usually due to an overgrowth of bacteria in your mouth, which then accumulate on the papillae of your tongue to cause the discolouration. Black tongue problems could also be related to taking medication for an upset stomach.
Pale: If your tongue is paler than its normal pink colour, this can indicate a deficiency in iron, otherwise known as anaemia. Pale tongue problems can also be an indicator that you are deficient in vitamin B12.
Red: If your tongue is a dark red in colour, this can indicate the first stages of scarlet fever. In addition, tongue problems where your tongue is smooth as well as red can also mean a deficiency of vitamin B3, vitamin B12, or folic acid. Red tongue problems can also accompany glossitis (a swelling of your tongue).
White: If your tongue has white patches, this can suggest various illnesses including thrush, leukoplakia (a pre-cancerous lesion on the tongue), the second stage of syphilis, or lichen planus. However, white tongue problems can also indicate that you have something as simple as dehydration. Your tongue can also become whiter if you are a smoker or heavy drinker.
Tongue problems and difficulty with mobility
If you find that you are unable to move your tongue as easily as usual, this may indicate that you have suffered damage to your hypoglossal nerve, which is the main nerve in your tongue. This can also be the result of ankyloglossia, a condition in which the tissue that attaches your tongue to your mouth is too short. If you have a loss of mobility in your tongue, this can result in difficulties with your speech, or difficulty in chewing and swallowing food.
Tongue problems that involve the whole mouth
One of the most common tongue problems is mouth ulcers. If you get a lot of ulcers this usually means you are suffering from stress or have a weakened immune system. Besides ulcers on your tongue, you can also have them elsewhere in your mouth, such as on the inside of your cheek or on your gums. You may also experience mouth ulcers where there has been aggravation to your tongue’s surface, for example if you’ve bitten it.
Many different tongue problems can affect your sense of taste. This can be the result of many things, including damage to your taste buds, side effects of medication, or an infection elsewhere in your body. It’s important to note that your tongue is only responsible for sensing sweet, sour, salty and bitter – other variations of taste come from your sense of smell, so a sinus infection will tend to affect your sense of taste and may make you more prone to mouth ulcers and give you a ‘furry’ tongue for a while.