Your tongue is covered in little bumps called papilla (or papillae) that help your taste buds send signals to your brain about flavor. Sometimes these different spots on the tongue can become inflamed or infected, and that can make them stand out from the rest of your tongue and look more noticeable. The good news is that most of these bumps and spots are harmless, but some can indicate a serious health issue. This article looks at some of the most common causes of these spots and patches, and when it’s a good idea to see your dentist or doctor for a diagnosis.
The first kind of spot that might show up on the tongue are red dots or growths. These can be a single spot that doesn’t have any coloration, or they can be concentrated and patterned, like cottage cheese. The red spots might also be accompanied by a sore throat or other symptoms, and they could be related to a number of conditions, including hypothyroidism, an infection, an allergy, or even a certain autoimmune disease.
Another type of tongue spot is a white one, and these might show up as single spots that don’t have any coloration or as a patch on the back of your tongue. These might be a sign of leukoplakia, which can sometimes be precancerous. This condition can also be a sign of smoking or smokeless tobacco use, and it can be associated with alcohol abuse.