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Oral Exams: Checking out the Tongue

Tongue CheckHave you ever wondered why doctors and dentists ask you to open wide and say, “Ahhhh?”

It’s true that we dentists are looking for cavities and tooth-related problems, but the tongue and other soft tissues can also be an important indicator for a patient’s overall health. Diseases such as diabetes, AIDS, scarlet fever, and different vitamin deficiencies can all manifest symptoms via the tongue. Patients can also do their part by performing self-examinations at home. Whenever you find yourself brushing your teeth (usually in front of a mirror), take a minute to open wide and look inside your mouth. Any sudden changes such as tongue pain, different texture or color, burning sensation, swelling, or oral lesions should be reported.

Several other tongue-related problems are far less severe.

Canker sores can be caused by a bite trauma, by eating salty or acidic foods, or for no apparent reason at all. They usually heal in 1-2 weeks, and over-the-counter numbing gels are available to relieve pain.

Bad Breath (aka halitosis) can be caused by the tongue. It’s covered with millions of papilla, which provides the perfect textured moist environment for bacteria to grow. If you suffer from bad breath then consider brushing your tongue as well as your teeth!

About Brent T. Ingram, DDS

San Jose dentist Dr. Brent Ingram received his doctorate of general dentistry from The University of the Pacific School of Dentistry and his B.S. in Accounting at Pepperdine University. However, the study never stops when you’re a dentist. Since taking over the practice at Complete Dental Care over 10 years ago, Dr. Ingram has gained certification in Invisalign®, 6 Month Smiles® as well as the latest methods of Endodontics, Laser surgery and Cosmetic Dentistry. Born and raised in Los Altos, California. Dr. Ingram currently lives in Santa Clara, with his wife Amy, son Rafe and new daughter Rhys Lillian, (who has no teeth but she’s trying!). Besides family time, he also enjoys golfing, skiing, traveling, theatre and watching his favorite basketball team, The Golden State Warriors.

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