What Do Tongue Colors Mean?

Just by looking at your tongue, Dr. Koshki can give a fair assessment of your health. So what do the various tongue colors mean?

  • Red Tongue: A red tongue can mean that you are low on vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is necessary for red blood cell production, which helps carry oxygen throughout the body and plays a vital role in maintaining brain function. If vitamin B12 levels stay low for too long, there’s a possibility for neurological problems to develop. Talk with your dentist about ways to improve your diet and prevent vitamin deficiencies from damaging your body.
  • White Tongue: A white tongue can be a sign of bacterial or debris buildup on the surface of the tongue. This can be caused by mild dehydration, smoking, dry mouth, or illness. A white film on the tongue could be a sign of oral thrush, which is a type of yeast infection.
  • Black Tongue: A black tongue could be caused by a variety of factors. A “black hairy tongue” is a harmless overgrowth on the tongue, usually when the papillae (tongue hair) traps bacteria and other tongue debris. A black tongue could also be a sign of improper oral hygiene, excessive use of tobacco, antibiotics, mouthwashes, or even Pepto-Bismol type stomach medications. These usually resolve itself on its own, but it black tongue lasts for longer than 10 days than you should consult Dr. Koshki.
  • Yellow Tongue: A yellow tongue, similar to black tongue, can also be a sign that bacteria is trapped within the papillae. Simply improving oral hygiene can often return your tongue to its normal color.


If you think your tongue color is off, or you have additional symptoms like burning, swelling, change in taste or difficulty moving the tongue, make an appointment with Dr. Koshki as soon as possible.