What Color Is Your Tongue Supposed to Be?

Closeup of a woman with magenta lips sticking out her pink tongue

It may surprise you to learn that we can tell a lot about your overall health from just looking at your mouth. For example, the condition and color of your tongue can reveal underlying problems that may have not yet been diagnosed. Here’s a guide to know what the color of your tongue says about your health.

If Your Tongue Is…


That is a good sign. Healthy tongues are light pink with some white on the surface.


Red or bright red tongues can be caused by many things, such as inflammation, infection, a blood disease, a heart condition, or a vitamin B12 deficiency.


A yellow coating on the tongue can develop due to discoloration or a buildup of bacteria from poor oral hygiene, tobacco use, alcohol use, heavy consumption of coffee or black tea, dry mouth, inflammation of the stomach lining, a weakened immune system, and using oral products with thymol, menthol, witch hazel, peroxides, eucalyptus, and alcohol. Jaundice, or yellowing of the face, eyes, and tongue, can signify problems with the liver or gallbladder.


This could indicate a lack of oxygen caused by respiratory issues, kidney disease, or a blood disorder.


Blood stagnation, poor circulation, and heart problems can lead to a purple tongue.


A gray tongue might point to digestive issues or a peptic ulcer.


Tongues with a thick and lumpy white coating could mean you have oral thrush, a fungal infection of your mouth’s mucous membranes. On the other hand, a tongue that looks only slightly white can indicate dehydration.


Certain foods and activities, such as drinking a lot of coffee or smoking, can cause tongues to turn brown.


Tongues that appear black and hairy have enlarged bumps, called papillae, that trap bacteria. This can be due to certain antibiotics, poor oral hygiene, and smoking. Additionally, Pepto-Bismol can temporarily darken the tongue.

Regularly Check Your Tongue for Abnormal Changes

If you notice any of these discolorations of the tongue, we recommend consulting your primary care physician. We’ll do our part, too, and alert you if we ever notice an oral abnormalities. Please keep us updated about any changes in your medical history. We want you to stay well! Contact us with any other dental-related questions.

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