If you see a dentist or dental hygienist on a routine basis, they no doubt give you an oral cancer check. This is commonplace now since over 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral and throat cancers yearly. Sadly, the five-year survival rate of those diagnosed is only slightly more than 64 percent. By being proactive, you and your dentist can detect cancer and treat it so that major health problems are alleviated later. So thank your dentist next time when the oral cancer test is complete as he or she might just save your life!
One of the items in the checklist for oral cancer is the health of your tongue. Your dentist does more than just tell you to say “ahhh” and stick out your tongue. He or she will take a piece of gauze to raise the tongue and look underneath and on each side to check for abnormalities. In fact, a dentist can tell a lot about your health by looking at your tongue. For example, a persistent lump or sore on your tongue that doesn’t go away within two weeks could signal oral cancer is present. Note that pain need not be present either – often oral cancer in its early stages has no pain involved.
The color of your tongue is a good indication of your oral health. For example, a healthy tongue should be pink and covered with small nodules (papillae). If there is discoloration of any type or deviation from your tongue’s normal appearance, this may be cause for concern. Avoid eating fruits such as black grapes or dark berries because they can deposit an unwanted color onto your tongue. Drink a lot of water because dehydration can sometimes change the color of the tongue.
You brush and floss your teeth daily, sometimes twice daily if you follow your dentist’s recommendations, so, taking care of your tongue is equally important to have a clean mouth. When you brush your teeth, you should also brush your tongue. Afterward, check carefully for any discoloration, lumps or sores, and, if they are present, or you are in pain, see a dentist if it doesn’t go away in two weeks.
A clean mouth is a happy mouth and if you practice these dental hygiene tips on your tongue you will get an “A” every time you visit your dentist.