Causes of White Tongue
Tongue discoloration is a common symptom and can range from a white coating to a yellow or brownish layer. A white tongue can be caused by a number of different factors, such as smoking, poor oral hygiene, dehydration, and certain medical conditions like leukoplakia.
In this article, we will focus on the causes of white tongue and discuss ways to address the problem:
Poor Oral Hygiene
Poor oral hygiene is one of the most common causes of a white tongue. When bacteria and food debris accumulate on the tongue, white patches can form. This is called oral thrush, caused by overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans.
Other possible culprits include not brushing your teeth regularly or not cleaning your tongue when brushing. These habits can lead to plaque and bacterial buildup, resulting in a white tongue. If left untreated, a white tongue can become infected and cause further issues, such as bad breath, soreness or a burning sensation on your tongue.
It’s important to brush your teeth twice a day and use antiseptic mouthwash to prevent white tongue from developing. Additionally, using a soft-bristled toothbrush with fluoride toothpaste and regularly cleaning your tongue with a scraper will help keep bacteria at bay for optimal oral health.
Smokers tend to be more prone to developing white tongues, or glossitis. This is due to a mixture of the alcohol and nicotine found in cigarettes. Both of these substances can cause irritation and lead to an increased buildup of debris on the tongue that can give it a white discoloration.
If you smoke, try to reduce your intake of both alcohol and cigarettes as much as possible in order to minimize your risk for developing white tongue (or other oral health issues). If you are unable or unwilling to quit smoking altogether, consider switching to low nicotine or non-nicotine options such as E-cigarettes.
Dehydration can cause a white tongue due to the drying out of the mucous membrane, which covers and protects the entire mouth area including your tongue. This dryness can cause a buildup of dead cells on your tongue which results in a white colouration.
Dehydration can occur when you don’t drink enough water or fluids, or if you are sweating excessively and losing too much water from your body through sweat. Symptoms of dehydration may include feeling faint or dizziness as well as lightheadedness, fatigue and headaches.
It is important to ensure that you are adequately hydrated at all times by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day and avoiding activities that lead to excessive water loss such as exercising in hot climates without drinking sufficient fluids before, during and after exercise.
Bacterial or Fungal Infections
Bacterial or fungal infections can often be the cause of white tongue. Bacterial infection is generally caused by poor oral hygiene, leaving a buildup of bacteria on your tongue. Interestingly, bacterial or fungal infections can sometimes be caused by allergies to foods and medicines, as well as environmental factors such as smoke, dry air, alcohol use, wearing dentures and smoking.
Bacterial or fungal infections are usually treated with antibiotics or antifungal medication. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis from your healthcare provider to ensure that you are getting the correct treatment for your particular infection. Common treatments include:
- Topical antifungals such as nystatin pastilles, lozenges or mouthwash.
- Oral antibiotics such as cephalexin.
- Topical steroids for inflammation.
If the white tongue is due to an allergy-related issue, then avoiding the things that cause your allergies should help resolve the issue.
Having a white tongue can be a cause for concern, as it may indicate an underlying health issue. Common symptoms of having a white tongue can include, a sore throat, bad breath, an unpleasant taste in your mouth and difficulty swallowing. In addition, there may also be signs of inflammation and the tongue may look swollen.
A white tongue can be caused by many different things and it is important to be aware of the possible symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Bad breath
- Unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Difficulty swallowing
- Signs of inflammation
- Swollen tongue
White Patches on Tongue
White patches on the tongue, also known as leukoplakia, are caused by excess cell buildup from chronic irritation or infection. Depending on the cause of the white patches, they may be slightly raised and rough to the touch. Most white spots on the tongue are not a cause for concern if they are painless and do not affect your ability to eat or speak normally. However, in some cases, leukoplakia can become cancerous if it is left untreated.
Other indications of a more serious infection include:
- Pain or burning in your mouth
- Altered taste sensation
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking
- Difficulty opening your mouth wide
- Swelling of your jaw or cheeks
If you experience any of these symptoms along with white patches on your tongue, seek medical assistance immediately.
It is important to see a doctor to get an accurate diagnosis if you notice white patches developing on your tongue that last for more than a couple weeks even after changes to diet or brushing techniques have been made. Your doctor may take a sample of oral tissue for testing in order to rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms such as anemia or syphilis. Treatment depends on what has been identified as causing the white patches but may include lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and drinking alcohol and using antifungal medications for fungal infections like thrush.
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be an embarrassing and distressing symptom to experience. It is caused by the buildup of bacteria in the mouth that release sulfur compounds, which then become expelled into the air when you speak or breathe, resulting in a foul odor. While bad breath can affect anyone from time to time, it can sometimes be an indication of an underlying health issue if it persists.
The cause for bad breath may be due to food debris trapped on the tongue and teeth or due to gum disease caused by excessive plaque on your teeth. Poor oral hygiene or dry mouth (xerostomia) are other common causes of bad breath since saliva naturally helps keep your mouth clean. Other physical conditions that may result in malodorant breath could include oral thrush, sinus problems and tonsillitis.
In some cases, a white tongue may be present along with halitosis – this could indicate that there is a bacterial or fungal infection present in your mouth that needs treating with medication such as antibiotics. In extreme cases where no improvement is seen with prescription treatments then further tests may need to be carried out to identify any underlying physical health issues contributing to the bad breath and white tongue concern.
It is highly recommended that you visit your doctor if you are experiencing recurrent bad breath issues accompanied by a white coating on your tongue as this could signify a more serious underlying condition requiring proper medical attention and treatment.
Taste changes are one of the common symptoms of white tongue caused by an overgrowth of bacteria or fungus in your mouth. This change in flavor may be temporary, but it can persist if left untreated. Foods and drinks can taste bitter or different than usual, and there might be a faint metallic flavor in the back of your mouth. Other symptoms like dryness and bad breath usually accompany this taste change as well.
If you experience any changes to your sense of taste, it’s important to see a doctor right away so they can determine what’s causing the symptom and provide the correct treatment.
Swelling of Tongue
Swelling of the tongue can be a symptom of various underlying conditions. Your tongue may swell for a number of reasons, including an allergic reaction or an infection. If the swelling is accompanied by difficulty swallowing, difficulty talking, pain in the throat or other serious symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
Tongue swelling can be caused by a variety of conditions, ranging from harmless to potentially life-threatening. Allergic reactions, mouth sores, lupus and many viruses such as hand-foot-and-mouth disease and yeast infections can cause your tongue to swell. In rare cases, the swelling may be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition such as epiglottitis (inflammation at the back of your throat that can block airways), which requires urgent medical attention.
A swollen tongue is often accompanied by other symptoms such as:
- Redness in the mouth
- Cracking corners at the sides of your mouth
- Peeling or cracking skin on your tongue
- Enlarged taste buds
- Pain with swallowing
- Sore throat
- Breathing difficulties
- Numbness or tingling on your tongue or lips
Additionally, it’s common for people with swollen tongues to experience taste abnormalities and difficulty eating certain foods due to changes in their ability to detect certain flavors.
Sudden white coating on the tongue can cause distress and some people may wonder if it is a sign of a serious condition. In most cases, the white coating is a sign of an infection, such as a yeast infection, or an underlining medical condition.
To determine the underlying cause, a medical professional will usually carry out an examination and take into consideration any additional symptoms that you may have. In this article, we will explore the causes and diagnosis of a white coating on the tongue.
When a physician is trying to diagnose the cause of a patient’s white tongue, they will order a comprehensive physical exam, depending on the patient’s overall condition and symptoms.
During the examination, the doctor may use tools like tongue depressors and conduct tests such as blood tests, exfoliative cytology and endoscopy.
Physical Exam: The doctor will look for any other signs or symptoms of underlying conditions that may be causing a white tongue. These can include redness, swelling or fever and respiratory issues. The physician will also examine other parts of the oral cavity for any other abnormal changes in texture or color.
Tongue Depressors: The doctor will use a tool called a tongue depressor to evaluate the surface under the tongue. The tongue depressor is held between thumb and forefinger allowing it to gently press down on the top surface of the tongue to expose any white patches or growths below it. This tool helps with inspection and collection of specimens if needed.
Blood Tests: Blood tests are used to measure levels of certain hormones, minerals and vitamins that may indicate an underlying medical condition that is contributing to a white coating on the tongue. These tests help diagnose nutritional deficiencies as well as infections caused by bacteria or fungi in saliva-filled areas within your mouth.
Exfoliative Cytology: Exfoliative cytology detects any abnormal cells present in your saliva that may lead to further investigation into underlying diseases such as anemia, diabetes or cancerous ulcerations on your tongue’s surface area.
Endoscopy: Endoscopies serve two main functions – diagnosing suspected ulcerations in deep tissues found below your surface tissues; endoscopies also allow for sample collections for biopsies when needed.
Oral Swab Test
In order to diagnose conditions such as oral thrush, yeast infection, or oral lichen planus, an oral swab test should be performed. This test involves using a swab saturated with a sterile solution to collect samples from the tongue and inner cheeks. The swabs are then sent for culture and further investigation. Additionally, the doctor will assess whether any underlying health conditions may have led to the development of white patches or sores on your tongue.
A physical examination is usually necessary in order to accurately diagnose any issue related to a white tongue. The doctor will examine your mouth and throat for signs such as white patches, swollen tissue, tenderness, or pus-filled lesions. Additionally, other tests might be required in order to help establish the diagnosis such as
- blood tests
- biopsy of the affected area
Following diagnosis of an underlying medical condition causing your white tongue you may be prescribed medication by your doctor according to their professional opinion in order to treat your specific condition.
Blood tests are among the most commonly used diagnostic methods in modern medicine. They provide insight into a wide range of health issues, from anemia to infections and hormonal imbalances. With blood testing, doctors can determine the number and types of cells that make up a person’s blood and examine the presence of various proteins and antibodies.
In general, blood tests measure these three components:
- Red Blood Cells (RBC) – these carry oxygen to your body’s cells
- White Blood Cells (WBC) – these fight infection
- Plasma – this is a yellowish liquid made up of protein, nutrients, and salts
A complete blood count may include levels related to glucose, cell counts for red and white cells (hemoglobin/hematocrit), platelets counts, cholesterol info, electrolyte info such as sodium, potassium or chloride readings. Additional tests such as liver enzyme studies or kidney function studies are often associated with complete blood counts. Certain conditions that require regular monitoring may also require other specific markers in the form of complete or partial panels that measure both large molecules such as hormones or vitamins and enzymes related to liver metabolism like alanine aminotransferase (ALT). Additionally more specific testing may be ordered depending on a patient’s symptoms such as tests for anemia or iron metabolism.
A white tongue can be an embarrassing condition. Fortunately, there are a range of treatments available which can help to reduce the symptoms and prevent it from occurring again in the future.
This section will look into the various treatments available which can help to reduce the symptoms and help you regain your confidence:
Good Oral Hygiene
Good oral hygiene is essential for healthy, white teeth and a clean, pink tongue. It involves brushing at least twice daily, flossing between your teeth and using an antiseptic mouthwash. Tongue scraping is another helpful technique that can remove bacteria and dead cells from your tongue. Many people also find that eating a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables helps keep their teeth, gums and tongues in good condition.
In addition to daily brushing, flossing and mouthwash, regular dental visits are important for maintaining good oral hygiene. Your dentist or hygienist can clean hard-to-reach areas where plaque builds up easily, and provide professional guidance about maintaining good oral hygiene habits. If you suffer from bad breath or notice changes on your tongue or gums, it’s important to contact your dental care professional right away.
Mouthwash is a great way to keep your mouth clean, fresh and free of bacteria. Antibacterial mouthwash is especially helpful for people who develop a white tongue due to an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth. Such antibacterial formulations can reduce the number of microorganisms which lead to the production of white and yellowish patches on the surface of your tongue. When using an antibacterial mouthwash, it’s important to follow the instructions on the packaging in order to get maximum benefit from the product.
In addition to reducing bacterial growth, some formulas also contain antifungal ingredients. This allows them to treat any Candida albicans, which is responsible for thrush and other fungal infections in the mouth. Mouthwashes may also contain astringent ingredients, such as alcohol or menthol, which help to reduce inflammation or swelling caused by infection as well as providing freshness and taste sensations.
By cleaning away debris that accumulates at base of your tongue, daily use of an effective antibacterial mouthwash can prevent bad breath by eliminating odor-causing bacteria from around and under your tongue, between teeth and from other parts of your mouth including gums and cheeks.
Antifungal medication is the most common treatment for a white tongue. This is because the most frequent cause of white tongue is an overgrowth of naturally occurring oral yeast. The medication comes in several forms including gels, tablets, lozenges, mouthwashes and ointments.
Typically, an antifungal medication will be prescribed after a swab of your tongue has been analysed to ensure that it’s fungus that’s causing the discolouration. Several medications may be prescribed including nystatin, clotrimazole and miconazole which are all topical agents or antifungals designed to kill the fungi responsible.
While these forms of treatment are effective they do not address any underlying causes of your white tongue so it’s possible your symptoms could return after a period of time if you don’t take measures to improve your hygiene or lifestyle habits that may have caused it in the first place.
Other treatments like antibiotics can also be used for more severe cases where bacteria is causing a persistent problem but these should only be taken as advised by your doctor if infection does not resolve with antifungal treatments.
Hydration plays an important role in curing a white tongue. Dehydration can cause the tongue to become coated and white-colored. Ironically, treating dehydration correctly involves drinking more fluids.
Water is always good to hydrate your body and relies on it to maintain proper homeostasis.
Other liquids that can help with hydration include herbal teas such as chamomile, ginger or peppermint. Check the ingredients of any tea before use, and make sure not to drink a large amount of caffeine as this can increase dehydration. Natural juices such as orange juice or freshly squeezed lemon juice also contain vitamins which are beneficial for hydration.
Soups can contribute significantly towards tissue repair and rehydrating the body when necessary. Broth soups are particularly helpful in this regard; however, ensure that the soup is prepared with natural ingredients only – no preservatives allowed! You might consider making homemade bone broth at home or consider taking supplements if you feel unable to get enough natural resources of adequate nutrition from food alone.
White tongue can be a sign of an underlying health issue and it’s important to try and prevent it where possible. Some tips for prevention include:
- Brushing your tongue when you brush your teeth.
- Using an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Eating a balanced diet.
- Drinking plenty of water.
Let’s explore these tips and more in detail.
Regular Brushing and Flossing
Regular brushing and flossing your teeth is essential for keeping your mouth healthy. You should brush twice a day for two minutes each time and floss at least once a day.
Proper brushing technique is important for removing plaque and bacteria that can cause white tongue. Use a soft bristled brush in circular motions at the gum line, outer surfaces, inner surfaces, chewing surfaces and the back of your teeth. Make sure to spend extra time brushing problem areas where plaque may be building up.
Flossing after meals can help remove particles that become trapped between teeth and promote healthy saliva production, which helps remove food particles from the tongue. Flossing helps reduce plaque buildup that can lead to white patches on the tongue as well as cavities and bad breath.
In addition to regular brushing and flossing, there are other methods you can use to help support good oral hygiene such as:
- Using an antibacterial or antifungal mouthwash.
- Eating nutritious foods with vitamin C.
- Drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
- Quitting or limiting tobacco use or alcohol intake if applicable.
If you have any questions about proper oral hygiene care or discomfort in your mouth consult your dentist or doctor immediately.
Smoking cigarettes, cigars or pipes can discolor the tongue and cause white patches or coating. Tobacco by-products contain compounds that are poisonous to tissue in the mouth, which can cause a white patchy growth. Smokeless tobacco also contains substances that are potentially damaging and can give your tongue an unhealthy appearance. In addition, smoking can also reduce your body’s ability to fight infection and this makes it harder for any infections that do present on the tongue to heal properly.
If you do smoke, cutting back or quitting is a good way to keep your tongue in good health and reduce the risk of developing other conditions associated with smoking such as cancer and heart disease. Your healthcare provider may be able to recommend strategies or smoking cessation treatments that could help you quit. If you cannot quit entirely, try cutting back as doing so still has many health benefits.
Drink Plenty of Water
Drinking plenty of water is an important factor in maintaining good oral hygiene and reducing the risk of developing a white tongue. Water helps to flush out bacteria from the mouth, which can otherwise accumulate and cause a build up of bacterial colonies on your tongue. Rinsing your mouth regularly with water can help to reduce the risk of developing a white tongue.
It is also important to ensure that you are drinking enough water each day, as this will help to keep your body hydrated and dilute any bacteria which may have accumulated in your mouth. Drinking at least 8 glasses (2 liters) a day is recommended for optimal health and hydration.