Did you realize your own tongue can alert you to hidden problems about the rest of your body’s health? Recognition and diagnosis of tongue abnormalities require examination of the tongue’s shape, structure, color and pattern along with a thorough history, including the onset and duration of the symptoms and the use of tobacco and alcohol. A thorough neck examination, with careful assessment of the lymph nodes, is essential. Although routinely examined during a patient’s semi-annual hygiene examinations, abnormalities of the tongue can present a diagnostic and therapeutic dilemma for dentists.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the point prevalence of tongue lesions is 15.5 percent in U.S. adults. Lesion prevalence is increased in those who wear dentures or use tobacco. The most common tongue condition is geographic tongue, followed by fissured tongue and hairy tongue. Patients presenting with a tongue lesion or other abnormal appearance of unclear etiology should be referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, head and neck surgeon, or a dentist experienced in oral pathology for further examination and biopsy.
Probably the best article providing a short synopsis of what to look for in a patient self-examination is presented in the American Academy of Family Physicians’ article:
http://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0301/p627.html Common Tongue Conditions in Primary Care.
If you haven’t received an oral examination in recent history we recommend you make an appointment and see your dentist to do so. If we can be of service or answer any of your questions please feel free to contact us.
Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA 30328
- Sandy Springs Periodontist: What are periodontal diseases? (therightsmile.wordpress.com)
 Shulman JD, Beach MM, Rivera-Hidalgo F. The prevalence of oral mucosal lesions in U.S. adults: data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1994. J Am Dent Assoc. 2004;135(9):1279–1286.