Body Check – Tongue Transcript
Dr Christian: Our tongues have the obvious purpose of helping us eat and speak ñ but how they look can say a lot about our general health.
Serious conditions including cancer can occur in the mouth. So it’s really important that you have a good look for any of the warning signs.
A healthy tongue will be pink and clean. It should be covered in small bumps called papillae, which help us to taste.
If your tongue looks red or the papillae are inflamed it could indicate glossitis; or if this is only in patches – it’s known as geographic tongue. This isn’t usually a major concern but it may mean you’re not getting enough iron, folic acid or Vitamin B-12 in your diet.
A black coating on the tongue is again not a serious problem but does highlight an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast in the mouth. Better oral hygiene – that’s including brushing your tongue – and not smoking will make a big difference.
A white coating on the tongue could mean you’re dehydrated; or it can be oral thrush, which can also occur in those with a weakened immune system or again from poor oral hygiene.
Dr Christian: Do you know anyone with really bad breath?
Girl 1: Errm, not that i’d wanna name names
Dr Christian: No!
Man 1: Ex Girlfriend back home, i didn’t have the guts to tell her.
Dr Christian: Have you even been told you have bad breath? Now you’re cleaning your teeth with your tongue automatically
V/O: Do you know what causes bad breath?
Girl 2: No
Girl 3: Bacteria
Man 2: Not cleaning your teeth
Girl 4: Garlic,
Girl 5: Garlic a lot.
Girl 4: Yes.
Girl 5: Onion.
Girl 4: Yes.
Dr Christian: Not brushing your teeth well enough is often to blame for bacteria spreading in the mouth – and they can cause bad breath. The simplest way to check for this is to take a spoon, run it along the back of your tongue and then take a sniff. Whatever you smell is exactly what others will.
Girl 5: Yeah i can smell that. Haha
Man 2: I can’t smell anything.
Man 3: Ugh!
Dr Christian: And finally, ulcers are one of the commonest conditions you’ll find in the mouth, either on the tongue, gums or lips. They should normally go within about 6 weeks; but if they persist for a long time and don’t heal, then get them checked out; as occasionally they may be an oral cancer.
Next time you’re brushing your teeth give your tongue a once over as well – and make sure to let us know what you find.
For this body check and others featured on the site we want to hear about your findings. So please come back, share your results and discuss them with other site users.
If you have any ongoing concerns it would also be advisable to chat to your dentist or your GP.
Body Check: Tongue
Tongues have the obvious purpose of helping us to eat and speak, but they can also be indicative of our health. In this video, Dr Christian talks about how to check the tongue for any abnormalities.
A healthy tongue should be pink, clean and covered in papillae which contain taste buds.
Inflamed, red, black or white tongues, though usually just a sign of poor oral hygiene, could be a sign of other conditions like glossitis, geographic tongue or thrush. A swollen tongue can be a sign of an allergic reaction, and if it persists you should contact your GP for a check-up. The swollen tongue image from this video comes from noricum and is licensed under creative commons.
Ulcers are one of the most common conditions, either on the tongue, gums or lips. They usually clear up in about 6 weeks, but if they persist do go and see a GP because it may be a sign of something more serious.
Poor oral hygiene can lead to bacteria spreading in the mouth and they lead to bad breath. To check for bad breath, take a spoon and run it along the back of your tongue and then take a sniff. Whatever you smell, is exactly what others will.
We want to hear about your findings, so please click the link below and add your results to our national survey.
Comments and Questions
Comments & Questions are now archived, but if you see anything on the site that worries you, please report it and one of our moderators will look at it as soon as possible.
Please note: Unfortunately Channel 4 cannot respond to individual inquiries. If you have any concerns, you can check out NHS Choices, but ultimately it is always best to check with a health professional.