White tongue, the main causes


White tongue is a term used to describe any area of ​​the tongue that has a grayish-white coating. This coating can cover the entire tongue or appear in patches.

There are several different reasons for the appearance of a white tongue, and each of them has a treatment specific. A white tongue is usually a harmless symptom, but in rare cases it can indicate a serious condition. In this article, we look at common causes of white tongue and home remedies to get rid of this problem.

Main causes of white tongue

The most common cause of a white tongue is poor oral hygiene. The small bumps on the tongue, called papillae, can swell and become inflamed if the mouth is not cared for properly. Many germs, debris, food particles and dead cells can get stuck between these taste buds. The tongue then turns white as the particles accumulate.

Oral and hygiene issues that can lead to a white tongue include:

– dry mouth due to mouth breathing or sleeping with your mouth open

– not brushing or flossing properly

– not cleaning the tongue

– dehydration

– irritation caused by sharp edges on the inside the mouth, such as teeth, braces or dentures

– regular alcohol consumption

– smoking , chewing or dipping tobacco.

Basic oral hygiene is essential for everyone, but some conditions cause a white tongue even in people who take great care of them. their mouth. These include:

– Oral lichen planus

Oral lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect the mouth and tongue. It can also affect the lips, the inside of the cheeks and the gums. Researchers are not sure what causes this condition, but it could be due to an immune response or genetic factors.

Symptoms that affect the mouth are as follows:

– white patches of skin, like lace

– ulcers

– pain, including discomfort, pain or burning sensation

– swelling and redness


Oral lichen planus is a chronic condition and in many cases the doctor will just monitor it to make sure the lesions are healing properly.

In severe cases, the doctor may prescribe topical or oral corticosteroids.


Irritants such as tobacco and alcohol can lead to leukoplakia. It can also result from inflammatory conditions and irritation from dentures. It can affect all areas of the mouth, including the tongue, cheeks and gums. Leukoplakia can present as thick, white patches that cannot be scraped off. Sometimes the spots can be red and white. Spots caused by leukoplakia are harmless on their own. In rare cases, leukoplakia can progress to cancer, so it is best to have a doctor diagnose it immediately.


A healthcare professional should monitor leukoplakia to make sure it does not get worse. He may recommend reducing the amount of alcohol consumed or quitting smoking.

Sometimes a doctor needs to remove the plaques surgically.

Oral thrush

Oral thrush is another condition that can cause the tongue to appear white. Oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by Candida.

Symptoms include:

– white or whitish patches in the mouth and on the tongue

– an unpleasant taste or loss of taste

– pain, especially when eating or drinking

– redness or pain

People with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop oral thrush. These include people who have recently taken antibiotics or undergone chemotherapy. Poor oral hygiene or wearing ill-fitting dentures are other risk factors. Using inhaled corticosteroids for asthma can also cause oral thrush. Certain conditions, including diabetes and HIV, can increase the risk of infection.


Treatment for oral thrush usually includes antifungal medications. These medications are applied inside the mouth for one to two weeks, until the condition is gone. For severe cases, a healthcare professional may prescribe oral or intravenous antifungal medications.


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause symptoms in many parts of the body, including the mouth.

Symptoms include:

– white spots on the tongue

– red and white lesions, called chancres, on the tongue or lips

– firm, raised lesions in the mouth

These symptoms usually appear between 10 and 90 days after a person comes into contact with the bacteria. Cankers may go away on their own over time, but the disease may stay in the body and progress without treatment.


Syphilis requires medical treatment with the antibiotic penicillin. This antibiotic kills the bacteria causing the disease. People allergic to penicillin can take another type of antibiotic. Reducing irritants in the mouth, such as alcohol and tobacco, can also help clear up white patches.

Other conditions

Rarer but sometimes serious conditions can cause white patches to appear on the tongue. Mouth or tongue cancer can cause a white tongue. Common causes of these types of cancer are chronic tobacco or alcohol use and human papillomavirus (HPV) infections.

Underlying chronic inflammatory disorders may also have an influence on white tongue.

When to see a doctor

Most cases of white tongue go away easily, but it’s not always the case. If the symptoms do not respond to basic oral care or if they appear together with other symptoms, a doctor should be consulted.

Home Remedies

Certain home remedies and habits can also help get rid of a white tongue.


Probiotics are another way to influence oral symptoms, such as white tongue. Probiotics are strains of bacteria that are good for the digestive system. While much research on probiotics focuses on improving gut health, probiotics may also be helpful for the mouth and tongue. A study by 2017 noted that probiotic bacteria can occupy the mouth as well as the gut. In some cases, these bacteria can help fight off infectious yeasts and other bad strains of bacteria. Although the evidence is inconclusive, probiotics can still help balance the environment in the mouth and prevent a white tongue.

baking soda

Adding food-grade baking soda to a toothbrush and scrubbing the tongue, teeth and gums can help reduce bacteria in the origin of white tongue.

A study found that a baking soda mouth rinse can reduce harmful bacteria that often cause oral infections, such as streptococci.

Raw Garlic

Eating garlic can help the body fight infections caused by bacteria and the mushrooms. Garlic has antibacterial and antifungal properties, including the ability to fight Candida. You can eat a whole raw clove of garlic every day or chop it and eat it with a little olive oil.

Tongue scraping

Gently scraping the tongue back and forth can also help reduce and remove bacteria and debris that settles in the mouth. Many companies make specific tongue scraping tools that can be purchased online. However, the edge of a spoon can be used just as easily.


S’ it is not always possible to avoid having a white tongue, basic oral hygiene can help prevent many cases. These include 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. Also, certain lifestyle choices can sometimes help prevent a white tongue from appearing. Avoiding tobacco products and alcoholic beverages can help, as can a varied and nutritious diet. A visit to the dentist every 6 months for a check-up helps keep your mouth as clean as possible. Individuals should report any concerning symptoms to a physician for proper diagnosis and treatment.


The outlook for a white tongue are generally very good. In many cases, it is harmless, although it can be painful to see. Symptoms do not always respond immediately to improved hygiene or lifestyle, but anyone with a white tongue is advised to improve their oral health.

In rare cases, a white tongue is a sign of a serious underlying condition. Following a doctor’s treatment plan is the best way to relieve symptoms.

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