Tongue CheckHave you ever wondered why doctors and dentists ask you to open wide and say, “Ahhhh?”

It’s true that we dentists are looking for cavities and tooth-related problems, but the tongue and other soft tissues can also be an important indicator for a patient’s overall health. Diseases such as diabetes, AIDS, scarlet fever, and different vitamin deficiencies can all manifest symptoms via the tongue. Patients can also do their part by performing self-examinations at home. Whenever you find yourself brushing your teeth (usually in front of a mirror), take a minute to open wide and look inside your mouth. Any sudden changes such as tongue pain, different texture or color, burning sensation, swelling, or oral lesions should be reported.

Several other tongue-related problems are far less severe.

Canker sores can be caused by a bite trauma, by eating salty or acidic foods, or for no apparent reason at all. They usually heal in 1-2 weeks, and over-the-counter numbing gels are available to relieve pain.

Bad Breath (aka halitosis) can be caused by the tongue. It’s covered with millions of papilla, which provides the perfect textured moist environment for bacteria to grow. If you suffer from bad breath then consider brushing your tongue as well as your teeth!