Tongue Problems (cont.)
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Tongue basics
- What are common tongue problems?
- What causes tongue problems?
- What are the treatments for tongue problems?
- White tongue
- Red tongue
- Black tongue
- Increased size/swelling
- Abnormalities of the tongue surface
- Tongue movement
- What are common tongue problems in infants and children?
- What are common tongue problems in pregnancy?
- How are tongue problems diagnosed?
- What is the prognosis for tongue problems?
- Can tongue problems be prevented?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
Dysgeusia is the term used to describe the distortion of the sense of taste. Common causes of dysgeusia include medications, cancer therapy, dry mouth, gum disease, and common cold or flu. Cancer therapy that involves chemotherapy and radiation to the head and neck area can greatly affect taste. Radiation therapy can damage taste buds and salivary glands. Decreased flow of saliva causes a dry mouth and further compounds the problem. Cigarette smoking also can affect taste. If dysgeusia is due to a temporary condition, it should resolve once the cause is removed. Damage to taste buds through radiation therapy may require time for healing to occur. Taste may slowly return. However, this depends on the amount of damage from radiation therapy. Artificial saliva and zinc supplementation may help in restoring taste for some individuals.
Tongue movement problems are often caused by nerve damage (for example, post-stroke or post-surgery nerve damage). Limited tongue mobility can greatly affect our eating, swallowing, and speech. Depending on the extent of nerve damage, sometimes physical therapy may help in regaining control of the tongue.
Ankyloglossia, also known as “tongue-tie,” is a less common condition where a band of tissue that connects the tongue to the floor of the mouth is too short or tight and impedes tongue movement. Because the tongue is vital for sucking, infants with ankyloglossia may be unable to breastfeed properly. For toddlers and older children, sometimes the tongue is able to compensate, but ankyloglossia can affect speech as well. The treatment for ankyloglossia is a surgical treatment (frenulectomy) that relaxes the tight band of tissue that is restricting the tongue's movements.
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