Of course, your tongue will chew, swallow, taste, and then wonder how delicious (or not!) the food was. But your tongue can do much more, including providing snapshots of your overall health.

Symptoms of many chronic and acute diseases appear on your tongue. In fact, sometimes they are one of the first signs that something is wrong.

So what is normal for language? “It’s not pinkish-red, bright red — it’s bumpy and wavy,” says Sally Cram, DDS, a consumer consultant for the American Dental Association and a periodontist in Washington, D.C.

Anything else could be a sign of one of these medical conditions.

Oral thrush is common among people with uncontrolled diabetes. In fact, it can be the first sign of a chronic illness, as people often go to the dentist rather than the doctor. Thrush is often associated with a weakened immune system. A yeast infection called thrush, or oral candidiasis, can look like a hard, white coating on your tongue, Cram says. Some people describe it as the consistency of cottage cheese.

People with diabetes are more likely to have dry mouth. “Most people with diabetes are a little dehydrated,” says Ryan Kauffman, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Piedmont Medical Center in Atlanta. “The tongue may shrink and lose its normal appearance.”

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