Ears, Nose and Throat

What Causes a White Tongue and How Is It Treated?

Have you ever looked in the mirror and wondered, “why my tongue is white? If so, you may wonder why this is happening and what it means for your health. 

The tongue may seem white owing to debris or a medical condition such as a fungal infection or leukoplakia. Some drugs or oral cancer might cause white spots in the mouth.

The reflection of a white tongue in the bathroom mirror may appear alarming; however, this condition is generally harmless. A white tongue is a white coating or covering on the tongue. Your entire tongue may be white, or it could only have white spots or patches.

A white tongue was typically not causing concern. But, in rare cases, these symptoms may indicate a more serious illness, such as an infection or early cancer. That is why monitoring any other symptoms and seeking medical attention if the white coat does not disappear within a couple of weeks is critical.

Please continue reading to discover why this develops and how to treat it. 

What is the white tongue?

A “white tongue” is a typical symptom of a thick white film coating the tongue. The coating may cover the full surface of the tongue and the rear of the tongue or appear in patches. People may also get a terrible taste in the mouth, unpleasant breath, or skin irritation.

White tongue is occasionally associated with a similar condition known as hairy tongue. The dense furlike coat that she isn’t hair; it’s the papillae, which are little bumps that hold the taste buds.

The white tongue might appear gradually or quickly if people irritate the tongue or have an infection. There are several reasons for a white tongue; however, it typically resolves itself.

Also Read: 7 Reasons Why You Have White Spots on Throat?

Why my tongue is white?

Bacteria, debris (such as food and sugar), and dead cells can become stuck between the papillae on the tongue’s surface, resulting in a white tongue. Those string-like papillae then expand and swell, becoming inflammatory at times. This results in a white patch on the tongue.

A white tongue could also be triggered by a variety of disorders, including:


Leukoplakia is a frequent disorder caused by expanding cells in the mouth lining. These cells generate an elevated white patch on the tongue when interacting with the protein keratin (present in the hair). Drinking alcohol or smoking tobacco can cause this condition by hurting the mouth and tongue.

Sometimes there is no evident cause. Leukoplakia is normally not dangerous, although it can proceed to carcinoma (mouth cancer) years and even decades after the initially appears.

Oral lichen –

Oral lichen planus is a chronic (long-lasting) inflammatory mouth disease. It’s produced by immune malfunction (the body’s fight against pathogens) and other tiny dangers. This cannot be passed on to others.

Also Read: Bacterial Infection Mouth: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Geographic tongue –

Geographic tongue occurs when the skin of the tongue regenerates. Portions of the tongue’s upper layer of skin shed too fast, causing painful red spots that frequently become infected. However, other tongue sections get white from being in position for too long. Geographic tongue cannot be passed on to others.

Also Read: 5 Unhealthy Habits That Can Put Your Oral Health At Risk

Oral thrush –

Oral thrush is a yeast infection in the tongue produced by Candida (fungus). Although Candida is commonly present in the mouth, it can become an issue when it multiplies rapidly.

Syphilis –

Syphilis is a bacterial illness spread through sexual contact (STI). It’s a severe illness with several symptoms, including a white tongue.

Also Read: What does syphilis look like?

Who is more prone to the white tongue?

Some health concerns, drugs, and behaviors might increase the chances of developing a white tongue or oral thrush. The risk factors include,

  • Having diabetes.
  • Being extremely young or extremely elderly. Infants and toddlers are the most prone to oral thrush.
  • Antibiotic usage (it will lead to yeast infection inside the mouth).
  • Consuming a diet deficient in vegetables and fruits. It can also be caused by eating predominantly soft foods.
  • A fever or a weakened immune system.
  • Wearing dentures or causing tongue damage with sharp items.
  • Having bad dental hygiene.
  • Breathe through the mouth.
  • Being dehydrated, experiencing dry mouth due to a medical condition, or taking drugs (like muscle relaxers).
  • Tobacco use, whether smoking or chewing.
  • Consuming more than one alcohol.
  • Having cancer treatments.
  • Being hypothyroid.

What is the treatment for white tongue?

A white tongue may not require treatment. It should disappear on its own within a few weeks. But, if it lasts longer than that or you wish to get rid of it sooner, you should seek treatment. The following are some treatments for common white tongue symptoms:

1. Hairy tongue

The doctor concentrates on restoring the compromised immune system. Antiviral drugs such as valacyclovir or famciclovir may be prescribed in rare circumstances. Instead, they may apply a medication (such as podophyllin resin or retinoic acid) straight to the white patch.

2. Mouth fungus

The practitioner will prescribe antifungal drugs such as Diflucan. They are available as tablets or as gels or liquids to put into the patches within the mouth. Several applications each day for 1 or 2 weeks are normally required.

3. White patches –

There are no unique therapies for getting many white tongue patches. Avoid eating or drinking anything that causes you to feel unwell. Topical treatments for oral fungus might provide some relief from whatever discomfort you are experiencing. There is little danger of this illness progressing to cancer.

4. Tongue rash –

A tongue rash should not require treatment. Yet, it can occasionally stay in the mouth for years. The doctor can give steroidal mouthwashes (steroid tablets diluted in water) and steroid sprays to alleviate symptoms such as burning or painful gums.

5. Syphilis –

If not treated, syphilis can harm the nervous system and create major long-term health problems. Syphilis is cured with a single antibiotic injection (penicillin). If you have had syphilis for over a year, you may require a maximum of 3 injections.

6. Mouth cancer –

If the doctor advises that you are at high risk of developing mouth cancer, they will probably surgically remove your white patch. The surgeon may employ a scalpel, laser, or (in rare cases) cryotherapy (freezing it with liquid nitrogen). This procedure will ensure that the tongue cells do not become malignant. You will recover quickly following this treatment.

Also Read: Canker Sore vs Cancer: All you need to Know

How can I treat my white tongue at home?

A white tongue is usually simple to cure. The treatment for white tongue produced by debris buildup in the mouth is to practice adequate dental hygiene regularly. Easy treatments for the white tongue include:

  • Consuming more than 8 glasses of water every day.
  • Cleaning the teeth using a soft toothbrush.
  • Using toothpaste with a low fluoride content that does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • Fluoride mouthwash should be used. For children, antifungal mouthwash is prescribed.
  • To remove the white patches, can use a brush or tongue scraper.
  • Avoiding chemicals that might irritate the tongue, such as alcohol, mouthwashes, and cigarettes.
  • Avoid foods and beverages that are spicy, salty, acidic, or highly hot.
  • Using over-the-counter pain relievers for pain.

Also Read: Oral Hygiene: 9 Advanced Approaches

Conclusion –

Healthy oral hygiene is critical: drink water properly, brush your teeth 2 times a day, and schedule frequent dental appointments to catch any concerns early. 

The white tongue is normally not hazardous, but you must contact the dentist or physician if the tongue bothers you or causes pain. This allows them to detect health issues early and treat people before they worsen.

Also Read: 4 Oral Hygiene Mistakes You Could Be Making

If you have more pain in your mouth with your white tongue, then you must visit Narayana Multispeciality Hospital Ahmedabad.

Navjot kaur

As a health writer, Navjot strives to create accessible and informative content on various health topics. His/her goal is to educate and empower readers with the information they need to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. She/he uses my expertise in health and wellness, combined with research and data, to write articles, blog posts, and other content that is accurate, engaging, and easy to understand.

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