Learn what our tongues are telling us
WE USE them to talk, taste and digest, but do you remember that tongues are also a window to our body's health.
Medibank clinical director Sue Abhary said, "When it comes to oral health, there are a few symptoms that older people should keep an eye out for.
"Seniors have a higher likelihood of a B12 deficiency, developing oral thrush and mouth cancer and should always seek help from their local general practitioner if they are concerned."
A deficiency of B12, a vitamin that maintains healthy cells and DNA, is more common in older people. A swollen, red tongue or strawberry tongue may be caused by an underlying health issue and deficiency of this vitamin.
Similarly, oral thrush, a condition in which candida, a normal fungus found in over half of our mouths, overgrows and causes white patches on the tongue, is seen more in older adults.
People with oral thrush usually notice discomfort in their mouth when they are eating.
Other symptoms include pain and burning in the mouth, an unpleasant taste, or lack of taste, a red mouth and throat, and cracks at the edge of their mouth.
In some cases, it may lead to irritation or bleeding, which can make it difficult to eat or swallow.
Seniors and particularly those who smoke, are at increased risk of mouth cancer. Most people first notice a persistent sore or lump on the side of the tongue.
"It's important we can hear what our bodies are telling us about our health," Ms Abhary added.
The team at Medibank offer some good habits to help keep your tongue healthy -
Brush your teeth twice a day
It's important to brush thoroughly with a soft-bristled brush to remove any build up of bacteria in the mouth. Make sure to give your gums some attention, brushing the tooth where it meets the gum, as well as flossing.
Bad bacteria in the mouth like to feed on sugary foods which can in turn damage your tooth enamel. Reduce your sugar intake to mitigate this nasty bacteria and promote better overall oral health.
Smoking can lead to tooth staining, gum disease, tooth loss, and in more severe cases mouth cancer. If you're a smoker, think twice about having that next cigarette. Call the Quitline on 137848 for support.
Drink plenty of water
Dry mouth, or a lack of saliva, can lead to oral disease. Drinking enough water can help to keep the mouth moist. The fluoride in tap water also helps prevent decay.