White Tongue Causes

white tongue cure

The white tongue is a coating of debris, bacteria and dead cells on the tongue which makes it to look white. The appearance of white tongue can be alarming, but this condition is usually harmless and temporary. But, there are some cases when the white tongue can be indication of some serious conditions, which can range from an infection to a precancerous condition [1]. When you look the mouth in the mirror, it may look frightening, but you should know that white tongue is usually harmless condition. Your whole tongue can be white or you can have just few white spots or patches on your tongue. The white tongue is not a thing for which you should be worried.

If you are concerned about the white coating or white spots on your tongue, then you should talk with your dentist or doctor. It is not always possible to prevent the white tongue. But, there are few things which you can do to reduce your odds of getting this condition. You surely know that it is very important to practice good oral hygiene. You should use a soft – bristled brush. You should use fluoride toothpaste. You need to brush your teeth two times per day.

You should use a fluoride mouthwash on daily basis. You should see your dentist every six months for a checkup and cleaning, so you will be sure that the health of your teeth is on good levels. You should avoid using tobacco products and stop drinking alcohol, because they can worsen the health of your teeth and they can increase your risk of white tongue. You should eat a varied diet that has a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, so in this way you can stay away from the white tongue. [2]

There are rare cases when the white tongue can be warn of a more serious condition, like an early cancer or infection. It is very important to keep eye on your symptom and call your doctor if you have noticed that the white tongue does not go away in a couple of weeks.

white tongue treatment

White Tongue Causes

The white tongue is a result of the overgrowth and swelling of the papillae (fingerlike projections) on the surface of the tongue. You should know that the look of the white coating is caused by debris, bacteria, dirt, food and dead cells which are getting lodged between the enlarged and sometimes inflamed papillae. The collected debris is what is causing the tongue to turn white. Here are causes of papillae hypertrophy or inflammation:

  • Fever
  • Mechanical irritation from sharp tooth edges or dental
  • A low roughage diet (eating mostly soft or mashed foods)
  • Mouth breathing
  • Alcohol use (excessive)
  • Smoking or other oral tobacco use
  • Dehydration
  • Dry mouth
  • Poor oral hygiene (poor brushing and poor flossing)

Below are mentioned conditions which are associated with the white patches or other discolorations of the tongue:

  • Immunosuppression caused by such diseases, such as HIV/AIDS
  • Syphilis [3]
  • Tongue cancer [1]
  • Mouth cancer [1]
  • Oral lichen planus
  • Leukoplakia
  • Geographic tongue
  • Oral thrush
  • The usage of certain medications, such as prolonged use of antibiotics that may bring on an oral yeast infection [4]

In the most cases, white tongue will clear up easily, although this is not always the case. If your symptoms do not respond to basic oral care or they are experienced alongside other symptoms, then you should see your doctor as soon as possible. In many cases, there is no need of treatment for the white tongue. You can remove the white coating from your tongue by gently brushing it with a soft toothbrush or you can softly run a tongue scraper across your tongue.

Also, you should drink a lot of water because it can help to flush bacteria and debris out of your mouth. If the white tongue is your only symptom, you do not necessarily need to see your doctor. But, if you have noticed that the white tongue does not go away in two weeks, then you might consider calling for an appointment. You should call your doctor sooner if you have some of the next serious symptoms:

  • You have open sores in your mouth
  • You have trouble talking, chewing or swallowing
  • Your tongue is painful or it feels like it is burning
  • You have other symptoms, like skin rash, weight loss or a fever [5]


[1] Messadi DV. Diagnostic aids for detection of oral precancerous conditions. International Journal of Oral Science. 2013;5(2):59–65.

[2] Lamont T, Worthington HV, Clarkson JE, et al. Routine scale and polish for periodontal health in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2018;2018(12):CD004625.

[3] Leão JC, Gueiros LA, Porter SR. Oral manifestations of syphilis. Clinics. 2006;61(2).

[4] Patil S, Rao RS, Majumdar B, Anil S. Clinical appearance of oral candida infection and therapeutic strategies. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2015;6:1391.

[5] Aravindhan R, Vidyalakshmi S, Kumar MS, et al. Burning mouth syndrome: A review on its diagnostic and therapeutic approach. Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences. 2014;6(Suppl1):S21–S25.


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