What Your Lips, Tongue, and Gums Tell You About Your Health

Whole-body health: everything's connected

Pay attention to your whole-body health as your body systems work together.

When we think of our health, we often consider various aches, pains, and other disorders independently. For example, if we have pain in our left knee, we think of it only as it pertains to our left knee. If we have tooth decay, we think of it as related to our teeth, and so on. But the truth is if you are experiencing pain, discomfort, or illness in one part of your body, other parts of your body are likely taking a toll as well. 

Because your body is composed of many parts that are designed to work together, your lips, tongue, and gums can indicate problems you may be facing with your whole-body health.

Your mouth can tell you a lot about your body.

Your mouth can tell quite the story, and we’re not just talking about the verbal ones. Your mouth also tells silent stories that are only heard, or seen, by those concerned with your health like you or your dentist. 

For example, your mouth can show signs of gum disease, tooth decay, and oral cancer. But it can also indicate that there are other things going on in the body, especially if you are not eating right or if you practice unhealthy habits, such as tobacco use and alcohol consumption.


If you have children, you have probably made assumptions about their health based on what you see on their lips. Let’s look at some examples.

  • If their lips are blue, it indicates that they are cold and are having trouble managing their body temperature or circulation. 
  • Bright-red lips can be a sign of overheating from the weather or spices in the food they have eaten. 
  • Bright-red lips in adults can also indicate that they have had too much caffeine or alcohol. 
  • Wrinkled lips can indicate fatigue or a weakened nervous system. 
  • And shaking or quivering lips can indicate mental distress.


How about your tongue? Generally, a healthy, normal tongue is pink. 

  • A bright-red tongue can indicate a hormonal imbalance or may coincide with a fever. 
  • If your tongue is too pale, it may mean you have a vitamin or mineral deficiency and should revisit your diet and nutrition. 
  • If your tongue has a thick coating on it, that can indicate issues with your digestive system or intestines. 
  • A yellow coating on your tongue often accompanies infection in your body.
  • And finally, if your tongue is puffy or the edges look scalloped, it might mean your body is not properly absorbing nutrients. 

Oh, and that saliva that your tongue helps produce? It can say a lot about your body too. And there are plenty of other things your mouth and tongue can tell you about your whole-body health.


  • If your gums are pale, you may have an iron deficiency or anemia. 
  • Red, soft gums could be a sign of gum disease or periodontitis. 
  • Periodontitis is often affiliated with diabetes and heart disease.
  • Painful gums could also be a sign of AIDS.
  • It could also be a sign of candida overgrowth, which can contribute to gum disease.
  • On the other hand, gum disease can lead to a weakened immune system, making you more susceptible to other diseases.
  • Eating a diet low in essential vitamins and minerals can also weaken your immune system and contribute to plaque growth on your teeth and gums.

Listen to your body’s signals.

Understanding that your body systems are all designed to work together is one of the first steps in developing a healthy daily routine. When you know that one poor behavior can contribute to more than one problem in the body, you are less likely to continue to make poor decisions regarding your health. But if you are not sure where to begin to improve your health, we suggest self-care as the place to start. 

Self-care is all about making decisions that benefit you and your body and help you feel better for longer. For example, you could take time each day for meditation or self-reflection. Adopt a workout routine and move your body three or four days a week for at least 30 minutes each time. Organize and declutter your house. These things are good for your mind and spirit and therefore great for your whole-body health.

With the summer right around the corner, now is a good time to think about plans to get outside. Spending time outdoors can lower your blood pressure and reduce stress. Not only that, but being outside can brighten your mood and give you a healthy dose of vitamin D. Living healthier and staying fit this summer will pay dividends for your health for years to come, especially if you can maintain your good habits.

Make sure you take time each day to brush your teeth twice, preferably after breakfast and right before bed. Floss daily to remove food particles that might have become stuck between your teeth and gums. And rinse your mouth daily before bed with a fluoridated mouthwash that can help wash away loosened food particles. 

During your daily oral care routine, pay attention to what you see in your mouth. If your lips, tongue, or gums appear discolored or different than they usually do, this can indicate that something is going on inside your body. Remember, a healthy mouth can lead to a healthy body.

Schedule a visit with your Greensboro dentist to improve your whole-body health.

We know adults can get busy, and competing priorities across work and home can make it challenging to do everything we need to for our health. Your family dentist is a great partner in helping you protect your whole-body health, and it all starts with a dental cleaning and oral examination once every six months. So, no matter how busy you are, make it a priority to see the dentist and request your next appointment today.