Spots on the Tongue: Types and Causes

Spots on the Tongue

Most of us have had spots on our tongues one time or another. Spots on the tongue are mostly uncomfortable but not anything to be worried about as they go away without treatment almost all the time. However, spots on the tongue could sometimes be a symptom of a severe illness that requires immediate attention.

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The cause of some spots on the tongue can be easily identified, but some other spots might require medical attention and this post will help you learn about the different kinds of spots you might notice on your tongue and when to consult your doctor. Possible causes of spots on the tongue.

There are different reasons why spots, lesion, and bumps might appear on your tongue. Let us explore a few of the possible causes

1. Black Hairy tongue

This condition often appears as grey, black, or brown patch on different parts or one spot on your tongue and look as though they have hairs growing on them. These patches start very ting and spread gradually until they eventually coat the entire top of the tongue.

These hairy looking patches are only a buildup of dead skin that has failed to shed as its suppose to. The cause of this could be poor oral care, tobacco use, and even the use of certain medications.

Men are more likely to have black hairy tongue than women and studies have shown that the risk of suffering from this condition increases with age. The colour of the spot can be changed by anything that goes into your mouth be it food, drugs, mouthwash or drinks.

And when bacteria and yeast settle on your tongue, the spots begin to look and feel like they are hairs. Common symptoms of the black hairy tongue are bad breath, tickling, and a burning sensation.

You can also feel some kind of irritation on the roof of your mouth. Brush your tongue with a toothbrush or use a tongue scraper from time to time to eliminate all dead skin cells from the surface of your tongue.

In a week or two of consistent scrapping, your tongue should look and feel normal. If you are in a hurry to get rid of the dead skin cells, then you can see a doctor or dentist who will scrape your tongue with special tools. However, it is important to continue with regular tongue washing to prevent a re-occurrence.

2. Geographic tongue

Geographic tongue

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This condition is a prevalent one. A geographic tongue is when a smooth, red spot with an irregular shape appears on your tongue.

The spot could change in shape, location and size and usually clears on its own without any form of treatment. However, it could take a few weeks to years to clear up, but it is not a severe oral condition.

The cause of a geographic tongue is unknown, but you can take some vitamin B tablets to speed up the healing process. When you consume certain kinds of foods, the red spots might hurt a little.

3. Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia

This condition not only appears on the tongue, but it can also show up on the cheeks and gums too. The cause of leukoplakia is yet to be discovered, but there is a link between tobacco and alcohol consumption and leukoplakia.  When you notice any irregular white or grey spot on your tongue, there is a chance that you have leukoplakia.

Because can sometimes contain cancerous cells, it is crucial that you consult your doctor so he or she can determine if there is any cause for alarm. However, you can reduce alcohol consumption and tobacco use to  reduce the risk of getting a leukoplakia.

4. Thrush

Thrush

Babies and adults can suffer from thrush. It is caused by a fungus called oral candidiasis. Thrush appears as a cream coloured patch that has a red lesion on your tongue and can spread to your throat and anywhere else in your mouth.

People with weak immune systems and people who are on some specific medication can have thrush. It is easily diagnosed and treated thus it is important to see a doctor for proper attention.

5. Lie bumps

Lie bumps

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Another name for this kind of spots or bumps is transient lingual papillitis. These small red or white bumps are harmless and disappear on their own in a few days, so you really do not need to seek medical attention if you are sure what you have is a lie bump. Like other tongue spots, the cause of lie bumps is unknown.

6. Canker sores

Canker sores

Aphthous ulcers, also known as canker sores are caused by the herpes virus that causes cold sores. Canker sores appear as whitish, shallow ulcers on the tongue. This condition can be caused by the use of toothpaste or mouthwashes that contain lauryl.

Other possible causes of canker sores on the tongue are HIV, menstrual circle, emotional stress, vitamin B-12 deficiency, inflammatory bowel disease, and allergic response to bacteria that have found a home in your mouth.

Anybody can have spots on the tongue regardless of age and gender. However, to prevent tongue issues, it is advisable to avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco as they may lead to tongue sores.

Proper oral hygiene is not an option but a necessity. Not only because you want to avoid spots on your tongue but because it is only appropriate that you brush your teeth and see a dentist regularly to promote your overall oral health.

Brush your teeth and tongue gently, so you don’t end up bleeding. It is also good to floss often to get rid of foods that may be stuck between your teeth and cause your mouth to smell.

Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.