What should the tongue normally look like? Well, it is a powerful but small muscle that is medium pink in color. It attaches to the back of the mouth cavity. When you speak, the tongue moves against the palate to help you to form words. When you eat, the tongue helps to break down the food as you eat it.

Now that you know what the tongue needs to look like, here is what happens when we are not taking good care of ourselves.

* Red tongue – This happens when you view your tongue and it is a few shades darker than it normally would be. Maybe you just ate a cherry flavored Jolly Rancher or something. In many cases this tongue color shows a deficiency in certain important vitamins and minerals.

* Hairy tongue – This sounds disgusting but it is not as bad as you think. No, it doesn’t come from kissing the family dog. The tongue has many small bumps on it called papillae. Sometimes those bumps become raised and enlarged, standing up until they look like there is hair growing from your tongue. It can be a sign of an infection in the body, probably bacterial.

* Discoloration – This can mean that the tongue is too dark or even of different colors. The first thought is that it is from your food. We eat and drink a lot of foods that can stain the tongue. Just taking medication like Pepto-Bismol can turn the tongue black for a while. Smoking can stain the tongue with nicotine and turn it a brownish color. If you can’t pinpoint the source of the coloring, consult your doctor. It could be a sign of a more serious problem such as cancer of the mouth.

* White coating on the tongue – We’ve all had this at one time or another. It was probably when you were a baby. It resembles flour as if you had been eating it and it clumped together on your tongue. No such luck with that though. This can be a sign of yeast in the mouth (thrush). Yeast is a fungus and antifungal medications can be used to get it to disappear.

* Pale tongue – The doctor will wonder why your tongue is a dusky color instead of perky and pink. You may be dealing with an iron deficiency in your diet. Iron helps to give blood its rich red color. It also helps keep the blood oxygenated properly to avoid fatigue.

What is your tongue saying without uttering a word? The next time you stand in front of a mirror, stick your tongue out and listen.