It is not a disease and is generally not a sign of anything serious. It is usually only temporary.
The tongue is responsible for tasting food, working with the lips and teeth to speak a mile a minute and assisting with digestion and cleaning of the mouth, the tongue has many irons on fire. However, the tongue can fall into poor health.
Seeing a white tongue reflected in the mirror when you are about to brush your teeth can be alarming. Maybe it looks like your entire tongue is covered in a white coating, or maybe you just have a few white areas on your tongue.
A coated tongue, for example, indicates that it is time to visit a dental professional. A white or coated tongue occurs when the surface is colonized by bacteria or fungi, and dead cells are trapped between the small nodules on the tongue.
You can try brushing it gently with a tongue scraper and drinking plenty of water to help it get better.
However, sometimes a coated tongue can indicate an infection or a more serious condition. You should see your GP for advice if:
- You are concerned about changes in the appearance of your tongue.
- Your tongue hurts.
- Its coated tongue persists for more than two weeks.
You can read on to learn more about the possible causes of a coated tongue, but don’t use it to diagnose yourself with a condition; always leave it to your GP.
Keep in mind that in a minority of people, a coated tongue may never return to its normal color or texture, even after treatment.
However, this condition is generally not serious, and if you know a few facts about how to improve your oral care regimen, you can easily get rid of the problem and prevent it from coming back.
Symptoms of coated tongue
Tongue whitening is one of the first signs, a whitening of the upper layer of the tongue or the presence of white spots or patches on the tongue can also be seen.
All this together with infection, irritation or chronic inflammation of the surface of the tongue. Other symptoms include:
- Irregular lesions on the tongue that are smooth and vary in shape and size, lesions on the tongue that appear to “migrate” or move from one area of the tongue to another over time (over days or weeks).
- Lesions that appear and disappear frequently, some slight feelings of discomfort or burning on the tongue or in the mouth.
Another symptom of coated tongue is extra sensitivity on the tongue, especially to certain substances. These substances can include:
- Cigarette smoke.
- Sugar or sweet food.
- Foods that are very spicy or acidic.
The main symptom of oral thrush is white lesions that resemble cottage cheese, which are usually found on the tongue or inner cheeks. White patches or coating can be a symptom of more serious health conditions, such as thrush and leukoplakia.
These conditions require a visit to your doctor or dentist.
When to see a doctor for a coated tongue
The tongue appears to be covered with a white coating when debris, bacteria, and dead cells lodge between the enlarged papillae.
The condition is generally harmless, despite the odd appearance. However, a white tongue can be a symptom of a serious health condition.
You should see your dentist about a white tongue if it is painful, the coating lasts more than three weeks, or if you are concerned about changes to the tongue associated with the coating.
Causes of a coated tongue
Several reasons why the tongue may appear white are listed. Conditions such as poor oral hygiene, mouth breathing, and dry mouth are common.
Alcohol use and tobacco use are known to cause a number of health problems, including white tongue.
A soft or liquid diet can also be a contributing factor. Fever and congenital heart disease are also causes of a coated tongue.
The most common causes of a white tongue are related to oral hygiene. Your tongue is full of little bumps called papillae. Sometimes these papillae become inflamed and swollen.
When these structures are enlarged, debris can get trapped between them. This build-up is often what causes your tongue to turn white.
Some of the debris that can accumulate between the papillae includes food, bacteria, fungi, dead cells, dirt. These residues can also cause the release of sulfur compounds that can make your breath smell like rotten eggs.
If excess plaque is the cause of your white tongue, this is easily fixed by brushing your tongue every time you brush your teeth. A tongue scraper can also be used to help clear the tongue of unwanted particles.
Using a mouthwash proven to kill bacteria and plaque can also help decrease and prevent the build-up that is causing your white tongue.
Be careful, however, not to use alcohol-based mouthwash frequently as this can dry out your mouth, making the problem worse.
To get rid of the bacteria that live under the surface of the tongues, you can use an oxygenated toothpaste.
There are many other conditions that can also be the cause of your white tongue. These include:
- Poor brushing and flossing.
- Common colds, flu, or infections.
- Side effects of medications.
- Irritants in the environment.
- Breathing through the mouth.
- Consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or second-hand smoke.
- Conditions that lead to inflammation of the inflammation of the tongue, such as glossitis.
- Spicy foods cooked with hot peppers like habanero and jalapeño
- Stress .
While some of these causes can be difficult to treat, others are easy to address. Make sure you drink plenty of water every day, as a dry mouth can lead to a white tongue.
Monitor the side effects of the medications you are taking and ask your doctor if your medication may be the cause of your white tongue.
If so, they may be able to change your prescription, give you something else to treat this condition, or give you suggestions on the best way to address your white tongue problem.
Avoid spicy foods long enough to determine if this makes a difference to the appearance of your tongue. Limit alcohol consumption and avoid tobacco products.
Sometimes a white tongue can indicate more than just problems with oral hygiene or the possible causes listed above. The three most common causes of this condition in addition to those already mentioned include:
It is an infection of the mouth caused by the Candida fungus, more commonly known as yeast. A typical healthy person has small amounts of Candida in the mouth, digestive tract, and skin.
Other microorganisms and bacteria prevent the fungus from growing out of control. However, illness, stress, and medications can increase Candida production.
Thrush can occur in anyone, but it is most common in infants and young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. It can be the result of:
- Use of antibiotics and corticosteroids.
- Poorly fitting dentures.
- Serious illnesses, such as HIV and cancer.
- The pregnancy.
You should see your GP if you think you have oral thrush. If left untreated, symptoms will persist and your mouth will remain uncomfortable. Treatment is with antifungal medications that are taken for 10 to 14 days.
Excessive cell growth in the mouth produces white patches on the tongue, a condition known as leukoplakia. Tobacco users are more likely than non-smokers.
The presence of leukoplakia can sometimes indicate cancer, although an evaluation must be performed by your dentist for a proper diagnosis.
The patch is usually painless but cannot be removed by brushing or scraping it off. This white patch appears to be the result of too many cells produced by the lining of the mouth and a protein called keratin being deposited.
Leukoplakia can develop when the tongue has become irritated and is related to excessive alcohol consumption.
Although generally not dangerous, in some cases the leukoplakia becomes cancerous, often many years or even decades after it first appears.
It is important that your mouth is regularly examined by a dentist or doctor to make sure that the leukoplakia does not enlarge or change, or that new areas of leukoplakia do not develop.
Leukoplakia lesions generally resolve on their own. If the patches last longer than two weeks, see your dentist.
Your dentist or specialist will usually be able to distinguish a white tongue caused by leukoplakia and a coated tongue.
Oral lichen planus
Oral lichen planus (lichen planus of the mouth) is a long-term immune system disorder that causes lacy white streaks and white patches in the mouth, including on the tongue.
Mild cases generally do not cause any pain or discomfort, although they can cause burning sensations and discomfort in the mouth, painful gums, and sore patches on the lining of the mouth.
The exact cause of oral lichen planus is unknown. It does not run in families and cannot be passed on to other people.
Mild cases will not need any treatment. More severe cases can be treated with an antiseptic mouthwash plus steroid sprays or steroid tablets dissolved in water to rinse the mouth.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is usually found by having sex with someone who is infected.
Syphilis can cause a small painless sore or ulcer on the tongue if detected by having oral sex. This appears 10 days to three months after exposure to the infection. Treatment is with a single dose of penicillin.
If left untreated, syphilis can cause white patches on the tongue called syphilitic leukoplakia .
Sometimes white patches on the tongue can be an indicator of serious underlying conditions. One of these conditions includes cancer of the mouth or tongue.
Chronic inflammatory disorders can also develop white patches on the tongue.
Most appearances of a white tongue will easily fade, although this is not always the case.
If symptoms do not respond to basic oral care or are experienced in conjunction with other symptoms, a person should speak to a doctor.
Treatment of a coated tongue
Regardless of what is causing your white tongue, bad breath is usually a by-product. That’s due to the extra bacteria hanging on your tongue.
Fighting bad breath from a covered tongue is as simple as maintaining good oral care habits.
Brush at least twice a day, supplemented with dental floss. Use the Colgate 360 ° Toothbrush, which revolutionizes oral care by cleaning teeth, tongue, cheeks, and gums and eliminates bacteria.
Schedule regular dental cleanings, too. In addition to keeping your teeth clean and healthy, your dentist can identify the cause of a coated tongue and restore your oral health to its optimal shape.
Experts recommend that you check your tongue daily when brushing your teeth to see if its appearance appears unusual.
In the case of white tongue, proper oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and scraping the tongue, can often resolve the condition or even prevent it from occurring.
If your white tongue does not resolve within two weeks, it is a good idea to see a doctor who can better determine potential causes and provide appropriate treatment.
A white tongue can be due to several disorders, each requiring its own particular treatment.
If the reason is oral yeast infection, it can be treated with antifungal medications. These medications are mainly in the form of drops and are taken for a period of 1 to 2 weeks.
Oral lichen planus can be treated with corticosteroids if the severity level is high. In many cases, this condition simply needs to be monitored by a dentist or doctor.
Leukoplakia is also usually monitored by a doctor to ensure it does not get worse.
Syphilis is mainly treated with penicillin which kills the causative organism. The associated white patches can be controlled by reducing the mouth’s exposure to irritants such as alcohol and tobacco.
If you suffer from a white tongue, there are some home remedies and lifestyle changes that can alleviate the problem. While these ideas are not win-win for everyone, they can offer some help to many people who suffer from the problem.
Sea salt or kosher salt : Some find some relief by mixing the salt with water to create a homemade mouthwash. Use it first as a mouthwash, then brush your teeth with salt, including your tongue.
This is a favorite home cure for the problem that has been effective with some people with this condition.
Glycerin : Glycerin is a soft, natural substance that helps some people with a white tongue. It can soothe your tongue and it can also whiten your teeth.
Lactobacillus acidophilus : This substance works as a coating for the tongue. It also promotes healthy digestion.
In addition to medical treatments, coated tongue can also be treated with some natural home tricks, home remedies, and habits that can also help get rid of a white tongue. All of these are remedies that can be done at home.
The role of probiotics
Probiotics are a great way to reduce oral symptoms, including a white tongue. Probiotics refer to the strains of bacteria that are actually good for your digestive system.
While much research has considered probiotics as substances to improve gut health, they have also been found as foods for the tongue and mouth.
A review published in the European Journal of Dentistry noted that probiotic bacteria occupy the mouth and gut. These bacteria can actually be helpful in fighting fungal infections and diseases caused by harmful bacteria.
The role of baking soda
A good way to treat a white tongue is by adding baking soda to a toothbrush and using it to scrub the teeth, gums, and tongue. This can help reduce the number of bacteria that cause this disease.
A study has concluded that baking soda is extremely important in killing harmful bacteria that often lead to mouth infections like Candida and Streptococcus.
The role of raw garlic
Garlic is an extremely beneficial natural food for your body. It helps to manage a large number of infectious diseases and some yeast infections as well.
Research particularly focused on the role of garlic in treating a fungal infection caused by Candida albicans and concluded that it is an effective treatment for it.
You can eat garlic raw or cut it and mix it with a little olive oil to reduce the risk of developing a white tongue.
The role of tongue scraping
Gently scrape your tongue, moving from back to front, as it can reduce or completely eliminate bacteria and other agents that reside in your mouth.
Different companies have made special tools for this purpose and using them ensures that a white tongue does not develop.
While it is not always possible to avoid having a white tongue, basic oral hygiene can help prevent many cases. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day.
Many people also benefit from using a tongue scraper every day or brushing their tongue with a toothbrush.
Lifestyle choices can also help prevent a white tongue at times. Avoiding tobacco products and alcoholic beverages can help, as can eating a varied and nutritious diet.
Going to a dentist every 6 months for a checkup will help keep your mouth as clean as possible. People should report any worrisome symptoms to a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
The outlook for a white tongue is very good. In most cases, this is a harmful condition, even if it can cause some distress.
Symptoms may not always respond to improving hygiene or improving your lifestyle at the same time, but better oral hygiene is definitely recommended for anyone who has developed a white tongue.
In rare cases where a white tongue is a sign of a serious illness, it is important to follow a plan of care suggested by your doctor.