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Open your mouth and look at your tongue. That may sound strange, but your tongue can tell a lot about your health. For example, a black and hairy looking tongue can signal poor oral hygiene, or diabetes. If your tongue is bright red like a strawberry, it could signal a deficiency in folic acid, vitamin B12, or iron. But, it could also mean you have strep throat, or a fever.

Is your tongue full of red and white spots? That might be a clear sign your taste buds are worn down. If you’ve eaten a pack of Sour Patch Kids a day for the last five years, or ate a piece of pizza in your mouth as soon as it came out of the oven, you’ve likely been a victim of red and white tongue. Luckily, this is fairly common and taste buds do regenerate.

So the next time you get out of the shower, wipe off the mirror, open your mouth, and inspect your tongue. You might be surprised at what you find!

Here are some additional facts about what your tongue says about your health:

If You See White Patches on Your Tongue

These white patches on your tongue signify oral candidiasis, which is an overgrowth of yeast or thrush. Try brushing your tongue regularly for a week to see if this is a matter of oral hygiene. If the patches persist, their cause is likely an overgrowth of candida. This condition can be treated with anti-fungal drugs.

Your Tongue is Black and Hairy-Looking

There are a few causes for black hairy tongue, including yeast infections, diabetes, cancer therapies, and poor oral hygiene. A buildup of dead skin cells on your tongue’s papillae results in the hairy look. No medical care is needed for this condition; simply practice excellent oral hygiene by regularly brushing your tongue (with the aid of tongue scrapers, as needed), and the problem should not persist.

A world-renowned health care provider with Pennsylvania roots. Learn more about UPMC.

There are Red and White Spots on Your Tongue

Nothing’s wrong here! Red and white spots on your tongue simply indicate the areas where your taste buds have worn down. This is common and requires no treatment.

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Written by AJ