Suddenly notice a white, or grayish-white coating on your tongue? Whether your entire tongue appears to be white or only a few patches are, the discoloration is usually harmless. There are a few reasons as to why you may be seeing a white tongue, but with the right steps toward treatment the filmy coating should fade in time.
Tongue discoloration is often the result of poor oral hygiene. The small bumps on your tongue, known as papillae, become inflamed and swollen if proper oral care is not practiced daily. When leftover food particles aren’t removed properly, the bacteria build up and create a white-like appearance on the tongue.
Additional causes of white tongue include:
- Dry mouth: Not having enough saliva in your mouth can result in an increase of bacteria. Try adding a mouthwash aimed at combatting dry mouth symptoms to your oral care routine.
- Dehydration: A lack of fluids can lower your immunities and aid with bacteria production. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to replenish your natural fluids.
- Irritation: Sharp edges from your teeth, dentures, or braces can scrape and injure your tongue. These lacerations can introduce bacteria and germs, opening up a gateway for infection. Practice good oral care to help your tongue heal and better avoid infection.
- Alcohol: Consuming alcohol can lead to dehydration. Additionally, if your tongue is sensitive, it’s best to use an alcohol-free moisturizing mouthwash. Alcohol may leave your tongue sore, dry, and pained.
- Tobacco use: Smoking or chewing tobacco greatly increases your risk for oral cancer. Try to lessen usage if possible and make sure to clean your mouth regularly.
- Medical conditions: Certain diseases, such as cancer and syphilis, can cause white tongue. Speak to your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
The first course of action is to ensure you’re following a proper oral health routine. Visit your dental professional every six months, brush twice a day with a toothpaste proven to fight cavities, decay, and plaque, and be sure to floss daily. Additionally, you can:
- Upgrade to an electric toothbrush featuring the latest technology for an expert-level clean
- or manual toothbrushes every three months
- Incorporate probiotics, found in most yogurts, fermented foods, kimchi, pickles, and kombucha into your diet to help fight off infections
- Gently scrape your tongue with a tongue scraper or brush to remove any leftover food particles
- Use an irrigator or interdental brush to better remove food particles stuck between teeth and clean hard to reach areas
If your white tongue persists, becomes sore, swollen or inflamed, or is caused by a specific disorder, then see your dental professional right away for treatment options.
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