The Tongue Tells All: 4 Signs of Poor Oral Hygiene

signs of poor oral hygieneWhat can the state of one’s tongue say about oral health?

As it turns out, quite a lot. Hopefully the information below will offer some insights and might even spur you on to make better decisions when it comes to the care of your mouth.

You may find these items some of these signs shocking and wonder why you should pay attention to them. It is important to realize that everything you might find regarding the state of your tongue has a different message to tell you.

Do any of these sound familiar?

1. White Patches

If you notice white patches on your tongue, “first try brushing your tongue each morning and evening for a week or two to make sure it’s not an oral hygiene issue,” says Flohr. It could be simple indication that more frequent brushing is needed. If the white stuff stays around, it might be an overgrowth of candida (a.k.a. yeast or thrush). Candida could come from other things besides lack of oral care. You have a higher chance of developing this condition if you’re… 

  • on antibiotics,
  • have diabetes,
  • on chemotherapy,
  • inhale steroids to treat asthma or COPD,
  • have a compromised immune system. (which cyclically is likely due to poor oral care)

Candida is very treatable with an anti-fungal swish-and-spit liquid or pill.

White patches could also be a sign of leukoplakia, which is often caused by tobacco or chronic alcohol use. Oral cancer can sometimes develop on or near these patches; Your dentist will perform a biopsy if he/she is concerned.

2. Webbed or Striped Look

A webbed or striped look on your tongue could signal a condition called oral lichen planus, which is a fancy way of saying that the immune system is waging war on the cells in your mouth. This condition usually goes along with a dry mouth. If your immune system is waging war in your mouth, this could be due to bacteria getting into the blood stream via gum break down.

Middle-aged people are most prone to this condition and should take oral health seriously to avoid the possibility of gum disease contributing to this problem.

If you’re not experiencing pain, your dentist probably won’t treat it, but he will likely monitor your symptoms, because this usually indicates a higher risk of cultivating oral cancer in those areas.

If you’re experiencing pain, you might be given a prescription for the pain, such as a corticosteroid, a retinoid, or an immunosuppressant.

3. Intense Red colouring and swelling

An intensely red tongue can sometimes appear in tandem with a sore throat.

“You could have scarlet fever, which is a bacterial condition that occurs in some people who have strep throat, and develop a strawberry tongue. This is usually associated with a really high fever and has to be treated with antibiotics,” says Gallups.

A red tongue could also be brought on through atrophic glossitis, or more simply, loss of taste buds due to a vitamin deficiency.(See 6 nutrients article) The tongue is usually shiny in this case.  

If your dentist determines atrophic glossitis is the problem, taking supplements that contain those particular nutrients may lead to an improvement of the condition along with consistent oral care and regular brushing.

4. Indentations or Ridge-like

Does your tongue have scalloped edges all of a sudden? These ridges may simply be due to the way your teeth press into your tongue, which often happens while you sleep. Those types of ridges are no big deal and will go away on their own, says Gallups.

You might also see ridges if you have a fissured tongue. What’s that? It’s a long crack down the middle of the tongue, and it’s just something you’re born with. “You can also have radiating fissures going perpendicular to the long axis,” says Flohr. “It’s normal; the problem is that sometimes food can get stuck in the fissures if they’re deep enough.”

So don’t forget to brush your tongue when you brush your teeth and avoid sticky foods when possible.

Contact our Gilbert, AZ office for more information on oral hygiene by clicking here or call us at 480-407-6193.

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