Red Tongue With a "Mapped" Appearance
Does your tongue look like it's dotted with smooth little islands? "This is called geographic tongue," Gause explains. "This is quite common and not dangerous. The tongue has red and white patterns that look like a map, hence the name." No need to worry here — while it’s unknown why it happens, it’s NBD.
Red Tip of the Tongue
Oddly enough, a red tip of the tongue can signify mental or emotional stress, Gause says. It can flare up during high-stress situations, and it’ll resolve itself once things have settled down. “Also, psychological medication can change both salivary flow and hydration of the mouth, which can impact the mouth overall and the color of the tongue,” he explains.
Black and Hairy Tongue
Yuck — that’s the first word that comes to mind, here. This can happen when there’s a build up of bacteria, or if you’re a regular smoker. “Treatment: good oral hygiene, including brushing three times a day, flossing, and not smoking,” he says. In fact, smokers often get one or two extra cleanings per year.
“An electric toothbrush is a great add-on to help patients achieve a cleaner mouth," he adds. "Brushing of the tongue should occur every time you brush your teeth, and smokers and nonsmokers alike should use a tongue scraper, which can be bought over the counter to keep buildup off the tongue."
There's another possible reason for a black tongue: Pepto-Bismol. “Pepto-Bismol, which contains bisthmus, can also turn the surface of the tongue black,” says Dr. Jon Marashi, DDS.
This can signify liver or stomach problems, says Dr. Jon Marashi, DDS. "A yellow tongue can be the gradual start of disease, leading to a brown or black-colored tongue down the line," he says.
On the less dangerous end, "The most common causes of a yellow tongue can be poor dental hygiene, smoking, or certain medications,” he says. Improving your dental hygiene is an easy fix; however, if you do not see any improvement, you should get it checked out by a medical professional.
Usually a brown tongue comes from what you’re eating or drinking: "A brown discoloration of the tongue can be due to heavy coffee drinking and/or smoking," Marashi says. If your tongue is permanently brown, it could mean you're experiencing lung problems due to chronic smoking.
Blue or Purple Tongue
A blue or purple tongue can be an indicator of heart trouble, Marashi says. “If the heart is not pumping blood properly, or if there is a lack of oxygen in the blood, your tongue can turn a bluish purple,” he explains. If you see blue or purple, definitely make an appointment with your doctor.
A pale-colored tongue can indicate a vitamin or nutrition deficiency — specifically vitamin B12 and vitamin A. “This can easily be corrected by seeing your physician [or an RD] where they might suggest a diet change or supplements,” he says.
Try eating more foods rich in vitamin A, like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, cantaloupe, spinach, and kale, as well as foods rich in vitamin B12, like liver, fish, beef, and fortified cereal.
If you notice something strange on your tongue, stay calm and don’t try to self-diagnose. Go to a medical or dental professional for advice.