Teeth, gums and tongue color say a lot about your health, experts warn

“The presence of bacteria from infected teeth and gums in the bloodstream can lead to the accumulation of fat in the blood vessels leading to the heart,” Kanagasingam warned. “Over time, this can cause your arteries to become stiff and blocked, leading to heart attacks and strokes.” Kanagasingam is a Senior Clinical Lecturer in the School of Dentistry at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

She warned that gum disease and root canal infections can “trigger inflammation in the bloodstream.”

According to the study, there is even a “link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease.”

“Caring for our teeth and gums can bring long-term benefits to our overall health, as well as our overall well-being and quality of life,” said Kanagasingam.

But teeth and gums are not the only components that affect overall health.

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Paying attention to how your tongue looks is very important, says Dr. Paul Ettlinger, general practitioner at London General Practice.

A yellow tongue, for example, can be caused by thrush, poor oral hygiene, or smoking.

Sometimes a yellow tongue can be the result of “certain mouthwashes and certain medications.”

Foods that can lead to yellow tongue include “antibiotics, lansoprazole, iron salts, and blood thinners.”

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Mouth breatheers — “those who tend to breathe more through their mouths than their noses” — are more prone to dry mouth.

Dr. Ettlinger elaborated: “Saliva helps clear the surface of the tongue of excess bacteria.

“So when it decreases, you risk bacterial overgrowth as bacteria and food particles remain on the lining of the tongue, which can lead to a yellow coating.”

On the other hand, a white tongue could be a sign of an underlying health condition, says the NHS.

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Examples include lichen planus, leukoplakia, geographic tongue, mouth ulcers, or candidal stomatitis.

Lichen planus

Lichen planus is a rash that appears not only in the mouth, but also on other parts of the body.

Contact your GP if you have any of the following:

  • Clusters of shiny, raised purplish-red spots on the arms, legs, or body (you may see thin white lines on the spots)
  • White patches on the gums, tongue, or inside of the cheeks
  • Burning and tingling in the mouth, especially when you eat or drink
  • Bald spots appear on the scalp
  • Painful red spots on the vulva
  • Rough, thin nails with grooves on
  • Ring-shaped purple or white spots on the penis.

This condition can take up to 18 months to resolve, even with creams, ointments, and light therapy.


Leukoplakia may be a white, painless patch on the tongue that should be examined by a dentist if it persists for two weeks or more.

What should be a healthy language?

Tompkins Dental notes: “A healthy tongue should be pink with small nodules called papillae on the surface.

“Tongue changing color could be your first sign of a serious underlying problem.”

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