Tongue Problems (cont.)
Donna S. Bautista, DDS
Dr. Donna S. Bautista, DDS, completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California, San Diego with a bachelor of arts in biochemistry and cell biology. During her time at UC San Diego, she was involved in basic research including studying processes related to DNA transcription in the field of molecular biology. Upon graduation, she went on to attend dental school at the University of California, San Francisco. In addition to her formal dental training, she provided dental care for underserved communities in the Bay Area through clinics and health fairs. She also worked toward mentoring high school students interested in the field of dentistry.
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 facts
- What are common tongue problems?
- What causes tongue problems?
- What are the risk factors for tongue problems?
- White tongue
- Red tongue
- Black tongue
- Increased size or tongue swelling
- Growths on the tongue
- Abnormalities of the tongue surface
- Tongue pain
- Altered sensation of the tongue
- Taste problems
- Problems with tongue movement
- What are tongue problems in infants and children?
- What are tongue problems in pregnancy?
- What specialists treat tongue problems?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose tongue problems?
- Are there home remedies for tongue problems?
- What are the treatments for tongue problems?
- Is it possible to prevent tongue problems?
- What is the prognosis for tongue problems?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
What are tongue problems in pregnancy?
A small percentage of women experience a sore tongue while pregnant. This may be related to the hormonal changes taking place during pregnancy. The soreness could also be in combination with geographic tongue where bare areas are present and disappear as well as reappear. These conditions usually resolve after the pregnancy ends.
What specialists treat tongue problems?
Depending on the tongue problem, there is a specific doctor for treatment. Initially, evaluation of tongue problems can be assessed by a dentist and if needed, an appropriate specialist can be recommended for further evaluation and subsequent treatment.
For tongue lesions such as changes in color, growths, or texture changes, an oral surgeon or an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist, also known as an ENT specialist) can evaluate the area, perform a biopsy, and follow up or refer for appropriate treatment such as surgery or medication. Tongue pain may also be addressed with an oral surgeon or ENT, but a neurology specialist may be appropriate if the pain is related to neuralgia. Tongue movement problems stemming from injury may also be treated by a neurology specialist in conjunction with occupational or physical therapists.
For tongue cancer, a group of specialists could be involved depending on the spread of the disease. A head and neck surgeon, an oncologist, a radiation oncologist, an oral surgeon, and a dentist could comprise the team of doctors that help in treating the oral cancer patient.
How do health-care professionals diagnose tongue problems?
During an examination with a physician or dentist, information based on symptoms and clinical appearance is collected. Based on this information, a diagnosis is made. However, if there isn't a unique sign or symptom to distinguish the tongue problem, a differential diagnosis is reviewed. A differential diagnosis lists all the possible causes of the signs and symptoms. It is a systematic process of weighing the probability of one disease versus that of other diseases that may account for the tongue problem. For example, a white tongue lesion may have the differential diagnosis of lichen planus, leukoplakia, or contact inflammation from dentures. Each of these causes can be carefully considered based on what is observed. Subsequently, a plan of treatment can be made.
For many tongue conditions that might be cancer, a special dye called toluidine blue has been useful to aid in diagnosis. Toluidine blue staining is able to help in early identification of precancerous or cancerous lesions.
A more definite diagnosis requires a biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure whereby a sample of cells or tissue is evaluated under a microscope. Optimal treatment requires a precise diagnosis.
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