Dental expert urges patients to be ‘tongue-aware’

January 15th, 2020

The British Dental Association’s chair of hospital dentists is urging the public to be ‘tongue-’aware’ in a bid to promote good oral and general health.

Peter Dyer said that it is useful for the public to adopt the mantra ‘the mouth is the mirror to the body’ to enable them to spot potential warning signs and optimise dental and general health. Mr Dyer is urging people to learn about what a healthy tongue should look like and to inspect their tongues on a regular basis. When looking in the mirror, it may be possible to spot abnormalities or identify changes in the mouth by poking the tongue out, looking at the surface and checking the underneath and the sides.

One of the most pressing concerns for dental experts is the increased prevalence of oral cancer. In the last decade alone, the number of people diagnosed with oral cancer has increased by almost 50%, and survival rates have not improved in line with other types of cancer. This is largely due to a lack of public awareness of symptoms, which include abnormal swelling and lumps, red or white patches in the mouth, slow-healing sores and ulcers and unexplained bleeding or pain. Being mouth-aware would enable dentists and doctors to spot and diagnose more cases at an early stage when treatment is likely to be more successful. The biggest issue we see with patients in our clinic is the lack of basic oral hygiene education, says Dr Kunal Patel from Love Teeth in Surrey, if more money was invested in public health awareness on oral hygiene we would have fewer issues.

A healthy tongue should be bright pink in colour with a slightly abrasive surface. Potential problems that are worth getting checked out include a white or yellow coating on the tongue, white patches on the surface, tongue ulcers and either isolated or full tongue swelling and inflammation. 

The best thing to do is to attend regular check-ups with your dentist and to arrange an appointment with your GP or your dentist if you notice any changes or you experience abnormal symptoms.

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