If you open up your mouth and stick out your tongue, you can learn a lot about your body (and greet friends in Tibet). Your tongue is a multifaceted organ enabling you to speak, swallow, talk and taste, according to LiveScience.
But, did you know that taking a gander at your tongue in the mirror can tell you if you are getting sick, need to drink more water or need to take more vitamins? Take a look at what a healthy tongue looks like to see if yours measures up.
Pink and smooth
If your tongue is pink, free of spots and grime, and full of papillae (taste buds), you’re good to go. Your tongue should be a little bumpy. If it’s too smooth, you may have a vitamin deficiency, according to Women’s Health.
Red and beefy
A bright red tongue could be a sign of vitamin deficiencies. A lack of vitamin B-12 or folic acid may make your tongue appear red, according to Cleveland Clinic. Consider a prenatal vitamin or more green leafy veggies to get more of these important nutrients in your diet, according to the National Institutes of Health.
If your tongue appears swollen with scallops (little waves) around the edges, this could be a sign of a thyroid disorder. Other symptoms to watch out for include frequent bruising, tiredness, hair loss and low blood pressure, according to Dr. Jeremy Kaslow.
A swollen tongue is also a symptom of dehydration, so make sure you are getting plenty of fluids throughout the day, according to the NIH.
Cracked or fissured
A cracked tongue could be a sign of an autoimmune disorder, but more than likely it’s benign. Fissures usually appear when you are younger and can get bigger (like wrinkles) as you age. Make sure to keep up with regular dental exams and ask your dentist about the fissures if you are concerned, according to WebMD.
Brown or black coating
If your tongue is black or brown this is a sign of poor dental hygiene. This condition may also appear in patients with diabetes or people taking antibiotics. Some chemotherapy patients also develop a black tongue. Brush and floss regularly to prevent bacteria growth, according to Cleveland Health Clinic.
If your tongue has a white coating, you may want to call your doctor. Oral thrush (a yeast infection in your mouth) presents itself with a white coating. This condition occurs more often in infants and individuals with weakened immune systems. If you smoke, a white tongue could be a symptom of leukoplakia, a precursor to cancer, according to Cleveland Health. Check with your dentist or physician to be safe.
Lesions or sores
These types of bumps can be a sign of stress or cancer, according to Reader’s Digest. Canker sores usually resolve themselves within a week, though they can be quite painful for a few days. Talk to your doctor if you notice red patches and sores that last longer than two weeks, as this could be a symptom of oral cancer.
Simply taking a few moments to check your tongue while brushing your teeth is a great way to keep a check on your overall health. If you have any concerns about the appearance of your tongue, talk to your doctor or another medical professional.