Have you ever wondered why the doctor always examines the tongue during any clinical examination? It is because a healthy tongue should always be pink in colour.
If there is any deviation from the tongue’s healthy pink colour, it is an indicator of an underlying health concern.
Which is why, it is important to know how to read your tongue. Let us take you through some of the most health issues and how they impact your child’s tongue’s colour and texture.
How To Read Your Tongue: White, Red, And Textured
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White coloured tongue
The white coating on the tongue or white patches can indicate a serious health condition or a hygiene issue. Here are possible causes:
Leukoplakia: This is a condition in which cells in the mouth grow excessively. This leads to white patches on the tongue and even inside the mouth. It can be a precursor to cancer. However, it is not dangerous by itself. This is often seen in people who consume tobacco products in adults. However, it is advisable to contact the dentist immediately if you spot a white tongue on your person or on your child.
Oral thrush: This is a yeast infection that develops inside the mouth. It appears as white patches and has the consistency of cottage cheese. Usually, infants and the elderly, who wear dentures or take diabetes and oral steroids also suffer from oral thrush. Plus, people with a weak immune system also stand a risk of developing it.
Oral lichen planus: It is a network of raised white lines that you may see on your or your child’s tongue. They look similar to lace and affect the mucous membranes inside the mouth. It can cause discomfort and pain.
Red coloured tongue
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If you spot a red tongue, it can be a sign of:
Vitamin deficiency: A blood test can determine the exact cause behind the red tongue. As Dr Daniel Allan, MD, of Avon Lake Family Health Center notes, “Folic acid and vitamin B-12 deficiencies may cause your tongue to take on a reddish appearance.”
Scarlet fever: This infection can also make the tongue strawberry-like red. Generally, medicines are required to treat this condition.
Geographic tongue: In this condition, you may have a map-like pattern of red spots on your tongue. These patches can have white borders around them. They are however, mostly harmless.
Kawasaki disease: This condition is mostly seen in children under the age of five years and is accompanied by a high fever. Your child will have a strawberry-like red tongue if he or she is suffering from this condition. Remember, Kawasaki requires immediate medical evaluation and should not to be taken lightly.
Sore and bumpy tongue
Sometimes those painful bumps on the tongue can also be a sign of:
Oral cancer: Yes, there can be a sore on your tongue a lump that may go away within two weeks. If not, it can be a sign of oral cancer. Dr Allan notes, “Keep in mind that many oral cancers don’t hurt in the early stages, so don’t assume a lack of pain means nothing is wrong.”
Trauma: There are numerous times when we hurt our tongue by accidentally biting on it or due to scalding post drinking or eating something hot. This can cause a sore tongue until the damage heals.
Canker sores: Many people develop canker sores on the tongue. These are small, shallow lesions that develop at the base of the tongue or in the soft tissues. But, they normally heal without treatment.
Black and hairy tongue: In some conditions, the papillae becomes excessively long. This makes them susceptible to harbour bacteria. It mostly occurs in those who don’t follow good dental hygiene and is not that serious.
Knowing how to read your tongue will alert you of any underlying health problem that you or your child may be have.
It can be an indication of cancer, ulcer and sometimes just poor dental hygiene. So, any soreness, discolouration or white patches on your tongue need treatment and proper assessment by a health professional.
But to keep the rest at bay, one must follow good oral hygiene.
3 Ways To Incorporate Good Oral Hygiene From Infancy
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Good oral hygiene needs to start early, right from infancy. After your baby has finished eating, wipe his/her gums with a moist cloth. At this stage, your little one may not understand much. But it is a way of getting them into a routine.
So by the time they start on solids you can use a finger brush. This allows you to gently rub the finger brush on your kid’s gum and around their emerging teeth.
After a few more months, you can start brushing their teeth daily when their first tooth fully erupts. It is advisable to use a soft-bristled infant-sized toothbrush that doesn’t cause any damage to their gum.
As for how you can incorporate good oral hygiene, try the following steps:
Let your kid brush their own teeth. But supervise their efforts until they are 7 or 8 years. By this time, they will learn how to brush their teeth effectively. You should also make them stand in front of the mirror so that they can also see what they’re doing.
Just like brushing, flossing is equally important. Do their flossing until they can do it on their own. It is usually around the age of 10 years that your child will be able to floss their own teeth.
Do take your kids to regular dental appointments and checkups. This will ensure that your child’s teeth and gums are healthy.
In addition to the above, make it a point to check yours as well as your child’s tongue daily and encourage them to practice good oral hygiene.