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Tongue Problems and Basic Oral Function

A little girl having Tongue Problems

Blog Highlights

  • A healthy, strong tongue is important for comfortable, easy daily life
  • You can prevent most tongue problems by maintaining good dental hygiene
  • Bad breath is a common, non-life threatening condition that points to a tongue problem

A healthy, strong tongue is important for comfortable, easy daily life. Without a well-functioning tongue, you may experience problems with simple tasks such as chewing and speaking. Fortunately, most tongue problems can be prevented by maintaining good dental hygiene and for those problems that are more serious, there is always medical treatment.

Common tongue problems that may lead to uncomfortable issues include:

Coated Tongue

Coated tongue occurs for a number of reasons. You may experience coated tongue if you drink too much tea or coffee, use tobacco, or suffer from leukoplakia. Additionally, coated tongue may be a result of overall poor dental hygiene.


Glossitis, also known as swollen tongue, can be caused by allergic reactions to food or medication. It can also be a symptom of high anxiety. Occasionally, it may be a symptom of something more serious and less temporary such as Prader-Willi syndrome, acromegaly, amylodiosis, or myxedema.

Tongue Pain

General tongue pain may be caused by any number of things. Less serious causes may be blisters, canker sores, or other injuries to the mouth. More serious problems include mouth ulcers, leukoplakia, and diabetic neuropathy.

If you suspect or know that you are suffering from one of the above issues, it is important to make an appointment to see your dentist or, in the case of an allergic reaction, to seek medical attention. Left unchecked, tongue problems can lead to a very challenging daily life. Often these problems get in the way of regular functions and can result in the following tongue-related issues:

Speaking Difficulties

In order to function correctly and to enunciate all the sounds required for speaking, a tongue must remain flexible and agile. If the tongue swells or is in too much pain, it can hinder your ability to speak clearly.

Eating Challenges

A common complaint among people with tongue issues is difficulty eating. The tongue is covered in taste buds, which are the sensors that “taste” food. If the surface of the tongue is compromised, it is likely that you won’t be able to taste your food anymore. Without taste, it is common for a person’s appetite to decrease, which leads to overall weight loss and nutritional deficiencies. Additionally, if the issue is a swollen tongue, you’re at a higher risk of choking on inadequately chewed food.

Respiratory Distress

Any kind of swollen tongue increases the risk of a person going into respiratory distress. If the tongue blocks the airway, it may become impossible to breathe. A swollen tongue resulting from an allergic reaction might include a swollen throat as well, which requires immediate medical attention.


Bad breath is a common, non-life threatening condition that results from many of the above mentioned tongue problems. Additionally, bacterial infections or a build up of bacteria can result in bad breath.

One of the best ways to prevent tongue issues and their related conditions, is to maintain good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth daily, floss as recommended by your dentist, and make sure to visit your dentist regularly for check ups.

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