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Common mouth ailments debunked

Difficulty swallowing?  Yellow tongue?  Metallic taste?  The Health at Hand nurses look at the causes, symptoms and treatment of 3 common mouth ailments

Yellow tongue

Yellow tongue can be caused by numerous factors and is usually nothing to worry about.  It most commonly occurs when the papillae (tiny projections on the surface of the tongue) become enlarged and the bacteria in the mouth produce coloured pigments.  In addition, dead skin cells can get trapped in the longer than normal papillae and may become stained by tobacco or food.  Yellow tongue is also linked to a dry mouth.

If you are bothered by discolouration then try to follow a good regime of brushing your teeth twice a day, use a mouthwash and gently brush your tongue too.  Rinse your mouth with water after brushing your tongue to wash away any bacteria removed.

In fact, rinsing your mouth regularly may also help to reduce discolouration of the tongue, especially after eating, drinking and smoking.

Giving up smoking and eating more fibre may also help by reducing the bacteria in the mouth and the build-up of dead skin cells.

Medical treatment for yellow tongue usually isn’t necessary but if you are concerned or if the whites of your eyes also appear yellow then it is advisable to make an appointment with your GP to get it checked out.

Metallic taste

A taste of metal in the mouth could be due to a number of reasons, such as:

  • Gum disease – if the gums bleed after brushing
  • A cold or sinus infection – resulting in problems with the airways
  • Side effects of medicines – such as antibiotics, antifungal medicine, antihistamines, chemotherapy, diuretics, nicotine patches – refer to the patient information leaflet with your medicine.

Difficulty swallowing

Occasionally feeling like there is something in the back of the throat whilst swallowing may not be a concern but if the feeling persists then it should be checked by a medical professional.

The two main reasons why there should be difficulty with swallowing are:

  • A blockage in the throat or esophagus – this could be due to anything from food or an object, gastric reflux, enlarged thyroid gland, tonsillitis or cancer
  • Muscles and nerves are not working as they should – this could be due to an inflammatory condition or spasm, a stroke or a spinal injury.

If you are at all worried by any of these symptoms then we advise you to make an appointment to see your GP.

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