What causes a white tongue and is there a remedy for it?

November 27, 2013

A pink tongue is a sure sign of health, but a white tongue can sometimes indicate illness or unhealthy lifestyle habits. Should I be concerned and can I get rid of it?

What causes a white tongue and is there a remedy for it?

Did you know that the colour of your tongue is a pretty good indication of your state of health and lifestyle?

  • A smoker’s tongue can look yellow, green or brownish.
  • A blackish tongue can be a sign of poor oral hygiene.
  • And a white tongue? It can betray your excessive fondness for some of life’s pleasures.

Show me your tongue, I’ll tell you what you eat

Your digestive system can sometimes encounter the odd problem after a good meal of rich, spicy food, especially if it was accompanied by lots to drink.

  • Bloating, gas, rumbling, and other gastrointestinal difficulties can make you feel miserable.

Thankfully, the situation usually improves over the day as your body recovers. However, if this propensity for fatty foods and alcohol is part of your lifestyle, it’s a good bet that your digestive difficulties are frequent or even chronic.

  • In this case, the internal disruption due to poor digestion may cause a white deposit to appear on the tongue.
  • This white tongue is also called “coated tongue”.

How to get rid of a white tongue

Usually a coated tongue is easy to treat by reining in your alcohol consumption and copious meals, which allows the gastro-intestinal system to function "normally" again.

  • However, when even these measures prove insufficient and the symptoms persist, the condition could be caused by a real illness that should be looked at by a dentist.

When should I consult a dentist?

Whether you have a white tongue or not, regular visits to a dentist are vital to ensure proper oral hygiene.

  • However, the appearance of white patches on your tongue or on the inside of your cheeks could indicate leukoplakia, a condition that a dentist should see immediately. Leukoplakia patches are considered to be precancerous lesions. Smoking is often blamed, but an irritation of dental origin could also be the cause.
  • Oral thrush (oral candidiasis) is a common infection that can look very similar to white tongue. In fact, these white lesions indicate a fungal yeast infection in the mouth. Anyone can catch oral thrush, even those who are proud of maintaining excellent oral hygiene. However, people with weakened immune systems, babies, and seniors are more at risk of developing this condition.

Other conditions can also impart a white colour to your tongue. But before falling into panic mode, see your dentist who will give you expert advice about what to do next.

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