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What your tongue can tell you about your health

What your tongue can tell you about your health
What your tongue can tell you about your health 01:39

MIAMI - You know to check your skin for cancer, do self-breast exams, and monitor things like heart rate, blood sugar, or blood pressure. But did you know that keeping an eye on your tongue can help you detect potential health problems?

Your tongue is a muscular organ that helps you swallow, suck and speak. But it can also reveal tell-tale signs of health problems.

"It's part of our observable areas that we can monitor for changes," said Dr. Gabriel Gavrilescue with Cleveland Clinic Florida.

Dr. Gavrilescu said monitoring your tongue is a simple way to spot potential issues, it can be quickly done while brushing your teeth.

"To make sure we notice changes and if we do notice, to see what they signify," he said.

Significant changes may signify a problem. For example, a whitish tongue could indicate a fungal infection, an inflammatory condition, or a potentially precancerous condition. A yellowish or greenish color tongue is usually due to poor oral hygiene. It can come from smoking, chewing tobacco, being dehydrated, or taking certain vitamins.

An orangish tongue is also commonly caused by poor oral hygiene or dry mouth, certain antibiotics, and some foods like carrots.

A bright red tongue may indicate food or medication allergies, or a vitamin B deficiency.

A gray hue may indicate eczema, according to a 2017 study, and a black tongue can mean there's a keratin buildup, which can lead to a thickening of skin.

If you have a blue tongue it may indicate a lack of oxygen in your blood and a doctor should be called right away.

"We have to be mindful about what we put in our body," said Gavrilescu who added that maintaining a healthy tongue color means eating a balanced diet, not using tobacco products, drinking plenty of water, and visiting a dentist regularly.

Experts say you should also brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss every day, and do daily tongue cleanings with a toothbrush or scraper. If you do notice tongue discoloration, the Cleveland Clinic said a doctor can help determine the cause and come up with a plan to treat it.

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