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Problems of the Tongue

There are more common problems of the tongue than you can probably imagine. While most are not serious, a few can require medical attention. More often than not, parents will look at their child’s tongue and panic when they see it is bright red in color. Of course, the parent did not realize that five minutes ago the child ate a red Popsicle at daycare.

Causes and Concerns

To the panicking parent, this scenario is anything but funny. However, if you discover that your child’s tongue is not the color it should be, before you panic, ask the child what he or she has eaten or drank, because it could be the reason. There are other causes of a discolored tongue, and there are many other problems that could occur. Some of these include:

Hairy tongue – This is a condition caused by an overgrowth of a hair like substance on the tongue. This substance makes the tongue actually appear as if it has hair on it. Hairy tongue is usually confined to a small area, and it is caused by poor mouth hygiene, smoking or chewing tobacco, and in some cases, a lack of saliva (dry mouth).

Fungal infections (more commonly called thrush) – Anyone can develop thrush, and it is caused from yeast (Candida albicans). In adults, thrush can develop because of the use of antibiotics. Thrush is also common in pregnant women, due to the hormonal changes the body goes through. Infants and children are at the highest risk for developing thrush. Babies and young children will put anything in their mouths, and fungus and germs of all kinds are just waiting for a host to come along.

Ankyloglossia (tongue tied) – This condition is caused when the frenulum (located under the tongue in the center) is attached to the tongue. This affects newborns and children, and often, this condition is overlooked by parents and doctors. It can cause the child not to breast feed or take the bottle, which leads to weight loss or failure to gain weight.

Symptoms and Signs

There are many warning symptoms and signs of problems of the tongue. If you or someone you love has any of these, consider making an appointment with one of our caring nose and mouth specialists. The symptoms and signs include:

  • A hairy appearing tongue (hairy tongue)
  • A bright red tongue (certain infections)
  • A patchy, discolored tongue (geographic tongue)
  • White patches on the tongue (thrush)
  • Trouble moving tongue from side to side (tongue-tied)
  • A V shaped notch on the tip of the tongue (tongue-tied)
  • Unable to touch the roof of the mouth with the tongue (tongue-tied)
  • Unable to stick the tongue out any further than the upper gums(tongue-tied)
  • Swelling of the tongue (an allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention)
  • Sore mouth and sores on tongue (could indicate oral cancer)

Solutions and Options

Treatment of problems with the tongue depends on the cause of the condition. For the most part, tongue illnesses are easily treated. Brushing the tongue with a soft toothbrush using warm water can help a thrush problem clear up faster. The same method of brushing once a day will also help prevent and treat a hairy tongue. However, if you have persistent tongue symptoms, you should make an appointment for an evaluation with one of our doctors.

Additional Reading:

http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/Ankyloglossia.cfm

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/tongue_problems-health/article_em.htm

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=131857&ref=132844

http://www.emedicinehealth.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=134288&ref=132844