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What Does a Green Tongue Signify?

What Does a Green Tongue Signify?

A green tongue may be seen due to various tongue infections or diseases. Here's more on its causes and treatment options.
Dr. Sumaiya Khan
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
It is said that the oral cavity is often a reflection of a person's overall health. Hence, any kind of disturbance in the oral cavity often points towards a local or systemic infection that may be present in the body. This is especially true in the case of tongue. The normal color of the tongue is reddish pink and, the normal texture is observed to be velvety and smooth. Hence, when there are tongue sores or any kind of infection of the tongue, then the color and appearance of the tongue changes, as is seen in the case of green tongue. There are different causes for this discoloration, and the treatment for this condition also varies accordingly.
Causes and Treatment
Hairy Tongue
One of the most common misnomers in dentistry, the hairy tongue syndrome does not actually mean that there is hair on the tongue. In a healthy tongue, the dorsal surface is soft and velvety in appearance. This velvety appearance is due to the presence of small papillae, known as filiform papillae. These papillae shed at a regular interval. However, at times, these papillae tend to grow but do not shed, due to which they appear as long hairy strands on the dorsal surface of tongue. These strands often get stained due to contamination or bacterial activity, leading to a green or even black tongue color. The exact cause of this condition is not known, although excessive use of mouthwash, incessant smoking, and poor dental health have been implicated. In such cases, the diagnosis can be done by closely examining the tongue for elongated strands or by microscopic evaluation. Other symptoms of this condition include bad breath and metallic taste in mouth. The treatment for this condition involves dealing with the underlying cause. Thus, cessation of smoking, treating any underlying systemic disease, and maintaining good oral hygiene will help to restore the normal color of tongue.
Oral Candidiasis
One of the most common conditions that can lead to a green tongue is oral thrush. This is a fungal infection that is caused due to Candida albicans. This condition mostly occurs as an opportunistic infection in people that have compromised immunity. It is also seen in people that have been wearing ill-fitting dentures or prostheses over a very long period of time. Although normally when there is oral candidiasis, there is the appearance of white tongue. However, after eating and due to the use of antibiotics, there may eventually be development of a green coloration. This colored coating is generally removable, in which case, it reveals a raw, red bleeding portion on the tongue. This condition generally affects the dorsal surface of the tongue, although it can also affect any other part of the oral cavity. Other thrush symptoms include a burning sensation on the tongue, bad breath, general discomfort, and pain on eating spicy food. The oral thrush treatment consists of firstly dealing with the infection, by topically applying antifungal medication. Along with this, one will also need to ensure that their diet and hydration levels are properly maintained.
Other Causes
There may be many other causes of greenish tongue. Green tongue and sore throat may also be related as this may be an extension of an infection of the upper respiratory tract. At times, as ironic as it may seem, people may also land up with a greenish tongue when they have been on long term antibiotics. Other conditions that can lead to greenish tongue include smoking, tongue infections, overuse of mouthwash, etc. Certain mouthwashes and toothpastes have dyes or ingredients that may render the tongue a greenish tinge. Also, lastly, having candy with green dye in it, may lead to a green colored tongue, albeit it will be an otherwise asymptomatic and temporary condition. A greenish tongue after piercing may be indicative of a tongue piercing infection. A fissured tongue may also make it difficult to maintain oral hygiene, due to which there may be a secondary candidal infection, which could lead to discoloration of the tongue.
This is a relatively mild condition, and with a little bit of conscious effort made towards maintaining some dental care, one can always keep problems like a green tongue at bay.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.