Look in the mirror, open your mouth and stick out your tongue. What do you see? If you're healthy and your tongue is healthy, it should be pink. Sometimes, when there's a problem in your body or with your health, your tongue changes color. If your tongue looks lighter than normal, it could be due to one of the following five pale tongue causes.
1. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The Merck Manual has a list of reasons explaining why the tongue might change color. It notes two causes of a pale tongue color, both of which are types of anemia, a condition that occurs when your body doesn't make enough red blood cells. Pernicious anemia is caused by low levels of vitamin B12, or when the intestines are unable to absorb the vitamin from food. In some cases, the anemia is due to an autoimmune disorder, which causes the immune system to go after the cells that produce the protein that helps the body absorb B12.
A pale tongue color is just one symptom of a B12 deficiency. Other signs include feeling very tired, having difficulty concentrating and feeling weak. If you think you have a B12 deficiency, it's important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
2. Dry Mouth
In some cases, a pale tongue might be white or appear to have a white coating on it. When the tongue is white, it is usually because the mouth is dry and the papillae may become enlarged and can trap bacteria and other debris on it. Dry mouth can occasionally cause the tongue to be white. When a person has dry mouth, the saliva glands don't make enough saliva to properly moisturize the mouth. Without enough saliva, it's difficult to rinse away excess bacteria, food bits and other debris.
A change in tongue color isn't the only symptom of dry mouth. Other signs include a sore throat, thickened saliva and bad breath. The first step to treating dry mouth is figuring out what's causing it, which is why it's important to see a doctor or dentist if you suspect that dry mouth is what's causing your problems.
3. Oral Thrush
While oral thrush, or a yeast infection, won't exactly change the color of the tongue, it can cause white patches to develop on its surface, making the tongue look pale or light in color. Oral thrush is usually easy for a dentist or doctor to diagnose, by examining the patches on the tongue and taking a sample of them. Treatment is usually with a prescription pill or mouth rinse. If you see white patches on your tongue, it's a good idea to see your doctor or dentist for a diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.
4. Poor Oral Hygiene
A white tongue can also develop when a person doesn't practice the best oral hygiene habits. If a person doesn't brush twice a day, bacteria buildup can discolor the surface of the tongue.
Remember that your dentist is there to help you achieve the healthiest mouth possible. They can give you pointers on the best way to brush and floss and offer guidance about when to brush your teeth. Your dentist can also recommend products, like Colgate Total Advanced Deep Clean toothpaste, which helps maintain a dentist-clean feeling with advanced-cleaning silica similar to what dentists use.