Tongue Health Status - Why This Organ Mirrors Your Health

Health / Life

Close up on a female tongue / Photo by Getty Images


The tongue is a muscular organ located in the mouth. It is covered with pink tissue(mucosa) and tiny bumps (called papillae). These nipple-like structures are associated with thousands of taste buds that distinguish the tastes, such as umami, salty, bitter, sour, and sweet. The tongue also helps teeth in grinding food.

Are Purple Tongue Veins a Cause of Concern?

Veins are the blood vessels that carry blood from different body organs towards the heart. The blood in the veins may appear dark blue, black, or purple. This is a normal color of a venous blood. The bottom of the tongue is made of thin mucous membranes that is why it is almost transparent and you can easily spot the purple tongue vein. This is not often a sign of a serious health concern.

However, certain conditions may cause sublingual varicosities, where the veins color may appear purple, black, dark, and blue. These conditions include a mechanical damage to the tongue, varicose veins that occur usually among the elderly, result of an allergic reaction from dental implants, use of certain medications that are absorbed under the tongue, salivary glands inflammation, etc.


Cute little girls sticking out their tongue / Photo by Getty Images

Tongue Crack - What it Means

A fissured tongue describes the appearance of multiple small grooves or furrows on the top of the surface of the tongue. These cracks can be deep/shallow and multiple or just a single tongue crack. Anyone can potentially develop a tongue crack later in life although the cause remains unknown. Some authorities claim that the cracks are just variations and it is normal.

A cracked tongue is generally a harmless condition and there may no symptoms associated. As such, no treatment is needed except maintaining a good oral hygiene to prevent bad breath and irritation.


Cracks on a woman's tongue / Photo by Shutterstock


The White Tongue Causes and How to Get Rid of it

White tongue is a coating of dead cells, bacteria, and debris on the tongue. The appearance may look alarming, but the condition is usually temporary and harmless. Yet, it can also be a symptom of a serious condition. The possible white tongue causes include the following:

-Mouth breathing
-Tobacco use or smoking
-Excessive alcohol use
-Dry mouth
-Poor oral hygiene
-Eating most of mash foods or soft foods
-Mechanical irritation from dental appliances or sharp tooth edges

To get rid of the white coating, avoid dehydration and dry mouth, quit smoking, reduce consumption of alcohol, and maintain a good oral hygiene. This means gently scraping your tongue with the use of a tongue scraper.


Smoking causes white tongue / Photo by Getty Images


Why Do You Have a Brown Tongue

If you notice that you have a brown tongue, it may be caused by medications and certain drinks or foods. Drinking several cups of tea and coffee every day can stain the tongue.  A brown or black tongue is usually due to the overgrowth of bacteria. 

The best way to treat a brown tongue is to brush it gently twice a day in order to remove the stains and food debris. Eating high fiber foods, such as cereals and whole wheat bread can also help maintain the mouth clean.


Drinking several cups of coffee can stain the tongue / Photo by Getty Images


What Can Cause Blood Under the Tongue?

A bleeding from the tongue may be caused by hemangiomas- the malformations of the blood vessels. It may also occur due to abnormalities in the lymph systems, including cystic hygromas and lymphangiomas. These conditions are often located in the mouth, neck, and head. Most will also notice a blood under the tongue because the tongue is injured due to many things, such as dentures, biting, braces, broken teeth, crowns, sharp foods, and radiation therapy.

Oral yeast infections may also cause yellow-white or white spots or open sores at the back of the throat and in the mouth that may cause bleeding in the tongue.


Capillary hemangioma red birthmark on the baby's belly / Photo by Getty Images


What are the Causes of Tongue Pain?

Tongue pain typically occurs because of an infection or injury. Biting the tongue can cause the development of a sore, which may be painful and can last for days. A minor infection is not really uncommon. The pain may also be caused by abrasive mouthwash or toothpaste ingredients, nutritional deficiencies, or food allergies. These sores can go away without the need of treatment.


Abrasive mouthwash can cause tongue pain / Photo by Getty Images