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"What causes spots on the tip of one's tongue?"


My teenage daughter has little spots on the tip of her tongue, and my wife and I are somewhat concerned. Are these spots normal? If not, what could be causing them?


A healthy tongue is pink and covered with small bumps called papillae. There are many causes for spots on the tongue, most of which are harmless, however, it is important to see a dentist every six months for routine care and sooner if the spots are painful, increasing, or do not resolve. The cause of the spots can be better determined by the color.

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One possibility for the cause of her spots is normal taste buds (fungiform papillae) that have become irritated and inflamed which can appear as red or white spots. This is called transient lingual papillitis and is benign and should heal within a few days. Red spots can be caused by vitamin deficiencies, geographic tongue (a benign map-like pattern of spots), or scarlet fever. Oral lichen planus is characterized by lacy white patches in the mouth. Oral thrush is a yeast infection that causes white patches on the tongue that resemble cottage cheese. Leukoplakia causes excessive growth of cells which leads to white patches. It is not dangerous on its own but can be a precursor to cancer so, as with all other spots that do not resolve, it is very important to have them checked by a dentist or your primary care provider.

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