What Your Tongue Color Says About Your Health

How Your Tongue Can Be An Indicator of Your Overall Health

Have you ever gone to brush your teeth and noticed something unusual about your tongue? The color of your tongue can actually be an indicator of your total health!

Here’s a quick rundown of what different colors could mean, and what to look out for when monitoring your health. 


Yep, this is the color we all hope to see when we check out the tasting organ! A healthy tongue is pink, with potentially a white layer on the top: these are the papillae, the little bumps that let you taste!


A red tongue (not to be confused with a darker pink: we’re talking red) could indicate a number of things ranging from “easily-treated” to “a-bit-more-concerning.” 

On the less serious side? You could have a vitamin B deficiency - easily remedied by taking a simple supplement. 

A bit more concerning? A “strawberry red” tongue could be an early sign of Kawasaki Disease, or Scarlet Fever, often found in children. 


Now we’re getting into the territory of colors you never expect to see inside your mouth. A purple tongue will look like just about any body part that isn’t getting enough blood circulation,  and that’s because it’s true in this case as well! A purple tongue is the sign of poor blood circulation, as well as a potential heart problem (as this is where circulation begins). 

A purple tongue can also be a sign of Kawasaki Disease. 


Logically it follows, same as the previous entry, that a blue tongue means the same thing as any other body part that turns blue for supposedly no reason: poor circulation or low-oxygen blood flow. 

This can be attributed to heart, kidney, or lung problems. 


A yellow tongue, along with yellowed teeth, can be simply caused by tobacco use. Smoking or chewing dyes your mouth with a chronic yellowish appearance, and reducing tobacco use or cutting it out entirely can certainly help. 

Jaundice, caused by liver damage, can also cause a yellow tongue (along with yellow eyes and yellowish skin). 

Overall, there are many reasons why your tongue might be yellow. 


A gray tongue could mean intestinal problems - this would result in a gray film or coating on the tongue due to bacterial buildup. If your tongue appears gray, digestive issues could be the place to start investigating. 


Once again, the key here is buildup. A healthy tongue might have a very light appearance of white on the top of it, which is due to the tips of the papillae. 

Typically, a white tongue is due to poor dental hygiene, causing those papillae to swell up, taking over the tongue’s pink appearance and making it appear white (and painful). A good brush will typically help. 

However, there are a multitude of other, more dire causes of white tongue. One example is a fungal infection like oral thrush (essentially a yeast infection of the mouth) which typically happens in children, but white patches and painful spots usually point to this. 


This is usually just because of what you eat or drink - tobacco is a big one, once you pass the “yellowing” stage. Once you’re in this stage of tobacco use, if sores begin to appear, it would be prudent to see a doctor and check that it isn’t cancer. 


A black appearance to your tongue might sound like the worst of the bunch, but the truth is, a black tongue might just have to do with your oral hygiene. Be sure to brush regularly and use mouthwash, scrubbing the tongue gently, and it should clear up. 

However, black tongue can also be a symptom of diabetes and other dangerous conditions that lower your immune system. 

On the other hand, there is a harmless (although somewhat yucky) condition known simply as “hairy black tongue” - this is when those papillae on your tongue don’t shed as they should, instead they elongate over time (“hairy”) and collect debris (“black”). This is fairly common, and can be “treated” with a good oral hygiene routine and regular scrapings of the tongue. 

In the end, if you notice something unusual about your tongue, you should step up your oral hygiene game and check in with your doctor; you never know what your mouth could be trying to tell you!

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