Most of us have, after enjoying a hard candy or a frozen drink, stuck out our tongue and admired how it turned green or purple or blue. As children, and even as adults, it was so funny that it could be a contest among friends, something to laugh at. Even candy manufacturers took advantage of this by selling tongue tattoos. But what if you look in the mirror and notice your tongue has changed colors without any explanation at all? If this has happened to you recently, then it may be a sign of an underlying condition.
If you’re trying to explain a sudden change in the color or shape of your tongue, here are four possible causes.
Oral thrush or oral candidiasis, is a yeast infection that can develop in the mucous membranes of the mouth. Candida albicans naturally occurs in the mouth’s microbiome but can grow out of control in the right conditions, turning the tongue white or off-white, and eventually changing to green over time. Other symptoms can include:
- Pain in the tongue
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bumps or changes in texture on the tongue or tonsils.
Generally oral thrush is not serious and can be treated with antifungal medication and ointment. If you recognize these symptoms, you should visit your doctor for medication.
Hairy tongue is a fairly common abnormal coating on the top surface of the tongue. Caused by a buildup of keratin cells, the same proteins responsible for human hair, the phenomenon is harmless. It affects up to 13 percent of the population. Patients who smoke, forget to brush their tongue, or are taking antibiotics for an extended period of time are more likely to experience hairy tongue. To treat hairy tongue, consider developing a strict oral hygiene routine.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. Symptoms include sores in the mouth or on the tongue which are firm, round, and generally painless. Without antibiotic treatment, syphilis will not go away, and if left untreated, can cause serious damage, including, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and irreversible damage to internal organs. If you suspect you have syphilis, visit a doctor immediately.
Although oral cancer is much rarer than other oral infections, it can cause similar symptoms, such as lesions on the tongue. The sore may change color and may even cause an oral infection. Persistent sore throat, unexplained weight loss, and bleeding in the tongue or gums can also be a sign of oral cancer.
Dentist are usually the first to detect oral infections or oral cancer. In fact, most include an oral cancer screening as part of the checkup process. If it’s been awhile since your last appointment, it may be time for you to schedule one. Visiting the dentist every six months can ensure that if any oral complication arises, it can be treated before it’s too late.
If you are looking for a general dentist in Valdosta, please call (229) 242-5511 or email for an appointment with Dr. Nelson Clements.