Apparently my tongue felt left out

When I last left my dentist’s office, it was in a state of semi-hysteria over having just been informed that I needed a $2,000 bite splint that my insurance (you know, that thing you pay for the pleasure of being told everything is ineligible for coverage?) wouldn’t pay even a little bit towards. I came home and had a small tantrum and then vowed to cure myself of TMJ the old-fashioned way—I would simply will it to improve.

It actually worked, if by “it” you mean “that whole ‘willing’ thing, plus changing my diet some and doing nighttime relaxation exercises.” I went from being unable to chew on the affected side to where I am now, which is hardly any pain to speak of at all. I mean, TMJ is typically cyclical, but let’s just all agree that my giving up chewing gum and learning to practice deep breathing is the real reason I got better.

And because I was no longer in pain, I totally forgot about it. Until I got a phone call reminding me that I had my regularly-scheduled dental cleaning this week.

I don’t mind dental cleanings. Unlike Joshilyn, the dentist’s chair has never been a source of consternation for me. I mean, sure, I don’t particular LOVE having pointy things scraped all over my enamel, but the dentist always comments to the hygienist “She has such pretty teeth, doesn’t she?” Dentists love my teeth.

Plus, it’s pretty rare that I get a solid 45 minutes during the day when I’m not obligated to be DOING SOMETHING. Lying there in the dentist chair is perversely relaxing, for me. (Joshilyn just read that statement and passed out, y’all.) So it’s usually all good.


I forgot in the excitement of the whole bite splint drama that at my last cleaning, the dentist noted a little spot on my tongue. Sort of… on the underside of one side of it. Just a little white circle, that he said could’ve been caused by abrasion. At the time I’d laughed and noted that we’d had Mexican the night before (naaaaaaaaaachos!) and that was probably it.

I remembered it this week when the hygienist said, “Huh, there’s something on the side of your tongue, here.”


But hey, GOOD NEWS! I am nothing if not productive. Now instead of a tiny white circle, I have TWO smallish white circles! There was no blaming it on tortilla chips, this time.

So the dentist checked me over and commented on my pretty teeth (*preen*) and then clucked over the White Circle Mystery and said that it was “probably nothing” but he wanted to refer me to an oral surgeon for possible biopsy, just to be safe.

Clearly he was annoyed that I hadn’t purchased the bite splint, am I right? Hmph.

Pro tip: Do NOT leave the dentist’s office and go home and Google “white spot on side of tongue.” You’re welcome.

So I finished writing my will (I hear oral cancers are a VERY bad way to go) and then I called the oral surgeon’s office for an appointment, mentioning that the dentist had referred me over and should’ve called, already. The good news was that they had indeed called. The bad news is that our dental insurance doesn’t cover the oral surgeon, but our regular health insurance might. HAHAHA. And if I wanted insurance to cover it, I needed a referral from my regular primary care doctor.

[Just for the record, the last time I called my primary care doctor’s office was in March, when I was In A Very Bad Way Indeed what with the being in a deep pit and perhaps needing of a bit of pharmaceutical intervention. I love my doctor very much, but her office is like everyone else’s office. Which is to say that when I called mid-March to say I needed an appointment because I was struggling with depression, they offered me the first available appointment. IN MAY. Just kind of not feeling the doctor love, at the moment, is all.]

Nevertheless, I needed a referral, so I called my doctor’s office and explained what I needed and they said they’d take care of it. Which I figured meant they’d forget about it entirely.

I was wrong, though; the oral surgeon’s office called me this morning to schedule my appointment. Of course, our entire county is under a tornado watch today, so it’s still possible I could die in a freak weather-related accident before I have to go find out that as a rabid anti-smoker, I have somehow gone and gotten myself some tongue cancer.

Needless to say, Otto is relieved I’m not overreacting or anything.


  1. Navhelowife

    THinking good, positive thoughts for you, for both the tongue and the tornadoes.

  2. amy

    Oh I hope it’s nothing serious :(

  3. Velma

    Yikes – hope both tornado and tongue prove to be false alarms!

  4. Nelson's Mama

    Hope all is well with the tongue!!

    I am Joshilyn – gas for cleaning (have graduated and no longer require the Valium!). Braces in my forties finally helped me get over a good bit of my phobia, but I resorted to pharmaceutical help on many days!

    Will be thinking about you…

  5. Jen

    You know, it’s not like you had anything ELSE going on in your life. Sigh… Maybe if you stand outside today with a metal ladder it will cancel out all the rest of the crap?

  6. Sarah K

    You will update us right? Cause I totally have this odd sore throat where only one side is sore… and I probably have throat cancer. Right? In my 20’s? Just cause yeaaaaah.

  7. Brigid

    Oof. Sorry. (says the woman sitting in a blue gown waiting to get mammogram results.) Last time I was at the dentist I asked about these hard things that seem to be growing out of my gums. Excess bone from clenching my teeth. They said surgery would be horribly painful, recovery would be miserable and they would likely grow back. Umm, yay?

    I raise my glass to your little white things being some random, easy-to-fix issue.

  8. elz

    Dentist daughter here and I did not need to google anything because I have seen it all before. You don’t even want to imagine the magazines my dad had lying around the house. Truly sickening. Ugh-shiver. If you have any specific questions, let me know. My dad is actually a brilliant clinician & diagnostician. Good luck!

  9. Lucinda

    I’m going to say it’s stress and nothing else. That you have an overproduction of saliva that erodes the tissue slightly and will be a minor irritation at worst. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it even though I have absolutely no medical training in the least. Hugs and prayers your way.

  10. Kristi

    Hoping it’s just…………a bad case of herpes?? Oooh, that doesn’t sound good either. Definitely hoping you don’t have to wait until, like, July to be seen. Please be well, my friend!

  11. Liza

    Oh dear. I have no specific knowledge or assvice to share, but I hope this is all ok, and not ridiculously expensive to resolve. And if I were there, I would be watching the weather channel from under a table, wearing my bike helmet, and offering to give you a hug. :)

  12. diane

    (((hugs))) Your pictures show a very pretty smile indeed. Prayers going up that these are just stress induced sores – you’ve certainly earned those – and that by a miracle, your insurance will cover the prescription: a month long family vacation in the Bahamas.

    I love going to the dentist, but I’ve never had any cavities, any work – nothing except regular cleanings, so no reason (yet, as I’m sure there will be a first time, and it will be extra traumatic to have my first dental work in my fifties) to freak out.

  13. Lynn in Mass

    Hope your appointment goes well.
    I am one of those people with the fear of the dentist chair. I didn’t go for years, found a dentist. Went for awhile. Moved and had a bad experience with my daughter at that dentist. I found a dentist where I know the dentist on a personal level (I thought it would ease my anxiety). Not so much. I sweat in the chair for the cleaning and wear my MP3 player to cancel out the sounds. If I have a cavity filled I take meds to get myself there. I have told the dentist I will turn my music on, close my eyes and tap my shoulder when you are done. (ugh, just thinking about the dentist)

  14. Mandee

    Here – I’ll make you laugh. Or cringe. Or both.

    I once fell down in Chicago – after midnight – on New Year’s Day. No, I don’t know what happened, but we’ll blame it on ice. Because all I remember is standing up and spitting out my teeth.

    Long story short, I basically knocked out the majority of my front teeth and broke my arm (and went to the next bar and handed the bouncer my driver’s license. You’re welcome citizens of Georgia; I just single handedly confirmed every stereotype that guy ever had about us). My sister and I flew home that afternoon and I spent 4 hours in the dentist’s chair with my brand new dentist who HAD to think I was a total lush. But, he’s the nicest guy in the world and rebuilt my mouth and I never have and may never go to another dentist.

  15. Megan

    Ack! Ack! Teeth related stuff… I’ll be in a corner waaaaaay over there for a while. My poor kids even knew not to show off their loose wobbly *shudder* teeth to me which is, I know, one of the major joys of childhood. (s’okay, their dad was totally willing to admire as often and as thoroughly as necessary).

    Also? Googling ANYTHING remotely health related is very, very bad… and for some reason nearly always irresistible.

  16. Amelia

    I have every confidence that all will be well, but I am thinking of you anyway.

    (In the meantime, DO NOT allow this post to remind you of a photo you once saw in a medical textbook of black, hairy tongue. And do NOT google black, hairy tongue out of curiosity. Because the internet contains an enormous number of pictures. None of which you can ever un-see. And quite frankly, I’m pretty sure I’m already nauseated enough for the both of us now.)

  17. Kellie

    Good thoughts are being sent your way – curl up with Miss Licorice and try not to worry about it!

  18. Sheila

    Did you point out to any of them that you have a daughter who just turned thirteen and you have probably been biting said tongue quite often?

    I ask because my daughter just turned thirteen and my tongue, on some days, looks like shreddle.

  19. Alison C

    I have White marks on my Tongue and the sides of my mouth and have had them checked out a few times. Mine come from gritting my teethwhn stressed and grinding my teeth in my sleep so hopefully your spots are the same.

  20. Karen R.

    Here’s hoping for the best of all possible outcomes (and full insurance coverage for finding said outcome).

  21. E's Mommy

    I’ve been sent to the oral surgeon by my dentist for 2 different kinds of sores in my mouth (That statement makes me sound very sexy, yes?). Neither one was a big deal. Both acidic fruits and whitening toothpaste give me different kinds of lacerations in my mouth so I stay away from those and mostly don’t have trouble anymore.

    It bodes well that they saw the first sore at your last visit and didn’t freak out since if it really obviously looked like some kind of horrible cancer you’d think they would have identified that. Them being trained in mouths and all. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you to get good news about your mouth. And to not be killed by a tornado.

  22. Lulu

    Since I just got today’s foot-in-mouth exercise over with by commenting on Miss Joshilyn’s blog this morning, I thought I’d come over here and be quiet…
    I’ll just send positive thoughts for health and calmness with a side of happiness your way.

  23. divrchk

    You’re not supposed to post these things without a conclusion of everything is OK. Now you have me freaking out. I have my reasons but I won’t tell you until you get the all clear. Please make sure you update us when you know for sure!

  24. karen

    I have had TMJ for years, I purchased my bite thingy, partially covered, but still had to pay some. I HATED IT!. Couldn’t stand the way it felt, like a claustrophobic person in a very small box. All I can say, it was a waste of time, money and anxiety….
    Good luck with the spots…Hope it’s all ok..

  25. Chuck

    Yikes. Hope everything goes well!

  26. AC

    I got white spots once an dit turned out I was dehydrated. Fade in…husband chasing me with another jug around the house, yelling “Hydrate!!!” over and over. What? We find amusement where we can.

    I alos love the dentist office for it’s relaxing time. His tvs are even angled so I can watch whatever daytime show he has on and catch up on my cheating celeb news.

  27. Tenessa

    The good thing about Googling health issues is that it is almost NEVER that bad. Just almost NEVER. Your welcome.

    ps. Maybe, and this I hope sincerely, it is absolutely nothing at all. Tongue freckles.

  28. Joshilyn

    In other news, I have yet to call the dentist to reschedule that appointment. HEH. THANKS FOR REMINDING ME. I mostly mean that. Mostly.

    ALSO isn;t it funny that we both decided we had mouth cancer/asked doctor google this week.

    ALSO, you are a grinder, and Doctor Google told me “Grinding or clenching the teeth can also irritate the sides of the tongue … can cause a whitish coating or white spots to develop on the tongue.” SO I think you probably have Grind Mouth.

    Meanwhile? I have pine mouth.

    Want to go somewhere and drink grain alcohol and cry? I DO!

  29. Katie in MA

    But…that’s not overreacting (for you) at all! :) Between me, you & the blogosphere, I think we all would’ve worried about you if you DIDN’T google it and (ahem) react appropriately!

  30. Tracy B

    I feel so much better after reading all of your comments that I’m not the only one that shudders at the thought of dentist. I just can’t cope with them unless they have the gas stuff. If they have that, I’m all good. :) I hope everything turns out ok with the oral surgeon.

  31. Nancy

    Yeah, I got me one of those bite thingies. But only because the insurance covered it. I bit through it within a week. I cured my night time sleep teeth clenching by having 2 babies in 16 months. Even my mouth was so exhausted by the time I fell asleep at night that it could no longer clench. Problem solved.

    I hope your problem is solved much faster and easier. I like the theory that it’s caused by excessive saliva production along with biting your tongue to avoid arguments with kiddos. Keep us posted!

  32. Stimey

    Ugh. I’m sure it’s nothing, but it really sucks to have to have that appointment. I’m sending best wishes to you for your appointment.

  33. Jessica

    Do you do the thing I (lovingly) do to my husband? You know, the thing where you find out you have to have another test or something odd is going on somewhere in/on/around your body, and then you say to your husband, “I’m going to die because of this thing (whatever it is)” You know, matter-of-factly. No big deal, I’m just going to die here, doot dee doo. My husband hates that. ;)

  34. Jessica

    (Oh, and is it weird that I immediately thought of Joss’s blog: “IT IS NOT A TOOOMAH. IT’S NOT A TOOMAH. AT ALL.”)

    Wanted to add that I’ll say a prayer for the continued health of your tongue. Here’s hoping it’s just a delayed reaction to that Mexican food you had quite a while back — or pine nuts. Anything, really, that is actually nothing in the long run.


    ahhhh, my thoughts, prayers, and fingers crossed for you. The other tidbit I wanted to post I can’t, your dad reads this blog.

  36. Dara

    I know it’s hard not to google, but as my husband reminds me, “You’re not a doctor just because you can google.” Google can make your mind run away with anxiety…here’s to hoping you very soon have your appointment, get good news, and can put this out of your mind.

    Sending positive thoughts your way.

  37. Aimee

    Ergh. I hope that the tongue thing ends up being nothing, and that the tornados pass you by.

  38. karen

    As a fellow freaker-outer whenever anything has to be investigated, I have empathy. However, as my grandmother used to say… “95% of the things I worried about over the years never came to be.”. So.. there’s that. And the tornados… I’d still be worried about that… do you have a cellar? Atleast you have Otto to figure that out.

  39. mamaspeak

    I don’t know how many, if any, suggested this, bc I too have TMJ from clenching. I don’t actually grind bc my teeth are slightly off, so I clench, my teeth are mostly fine, but my jaw is killing me. I did get a mouth guard via my dentist years ago, I found that I take it out in my sleep & throw it across the room. (Gross) So it doesn’t matter how much I spend, if I don’t use it, it won’t help. However, bc I do this, my tongue is all kinds of torn up on the sides. I think, (with my extensive medical/dental knowledge,) it’s probably something along the lines of you’re gnashing all over your tongue & now you’ve got some kind of skin condition as part of it (think eczema). I’m sure it’s something that they will give you a medication that will easily resolve it in a week or two. You’re welcome. ;-)

  40. Leah

    I will say a prayer for you.

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