When you visit a clinic, the doctor first checks the oral cavity and the tongue. The oral cavity reflects the overall health of a person. A healthy tongue appears reddish-pink in color. Certain diseases and infections can create a white layer on tongue, or tongue sores. It is possible that no other symptoms are noticed along with white tongue, or you may have severe pain and discomfort while eating.
Leukoplakia is a pre-cancerous lesion which in fact can occur anywhere in the oral cavity, although the tongue and the buccal mucosa are the most commonly affected regions. The white patches on the tongue are thick, and are not easily removable. So, they do not disappear on scraping. This way, it can be confirmed that they are not the patches formed due to oral candidiasis. Normally such patches are asymptomatic, though sometimes, they may cause burning sensation in the mouth. This is not a common cause. People suffering from AIDS or HIV, or those who often chew tobacco are more susceptible to leukoplakia.
Candidiasis or yeast infection is one of the leading white tongue causes. The fungus Candida albicans plays an important role in the formation of a thin film over your tongue. This type of oral infection mostly occurs if you have a weak or compromised immune system. Ill-fitting dentures or prostheses are also responsible for occurrence of such an infection. You will be able to notice white spots on the tongue and/or the palate due to the infection. These white spots or patches normally look like white velvety flecks, and are present uniformly on the dorsal surface of the tongue. These patches are removable, and when removed, raw bleeding areas on the tongue can be observed. Generally, the condition leads to bad breath. Sometimes, it may cause burning sensation.
Oral thrush causes also include sugar rich diet, breathing through mouth, use of too many antibiotics, HIV/AIDS, cancer, smoking, dry mouth, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and side effects of certain medicines.
In a condition known as 'geographic tongue', irregular patches on the dorsal surface of the tongue are observed. The papillae present on the tongue give it its velvety appearance, but if they shed off, geographic tongue can be noticed. 'Bald patches' can be noticed on the surface of the tongue. Such tongue patches usually have prominent demarcations, generally white in color. It is believed that geographic tongue may occur due to vitamin B-complex deficiency, or it may be hereditary. It has been observed that the papillae regrow in the region of the dorsal surface where they are shed, and then shed in another region of the tongue. That is why this condition is also referred to as benign migratory glossitis.
When the white lines on the tongue or the buccal (inner cheek) mucosa form a lace like pattern, the condition is called oral lichen planus. The exact cause of such white lines is not yet known, but it is believed that stress and tobacco can cause lichen planus.
Other causes of coated tongue and bad breath include severe dehydration, alcohol abuse, indigestion, excessive smoking, overuse of broad spectrum antibiotics, chronic illnesses, etc. The white patches on the tongue may occur due to infection, or due to bad hygiene.
How to Get Rid of the White Film on the Tongue
White tongue and bad breath go hand in hand. The treatment for the condition may vary according to the underlying causes. Oral candidiasis can be cured by applying antifungal medication along with other medication. If the person has ill fitted dentures, resizing can help get rid of the problem. Avoiding smoking, tobacco, and alcohol is required during the treatment of leukoplakia. Geographic tongue is harmless, and there is no need for any special treatment.
Cleaning the tongue with a tongue scraper, brushing the tongue with a combination of baking soda, 3% hydrogen peroxide, and water for a short while, or just with warm salty water, can help get rid of the white layer and bad breath.
You can hold the salty water for approximately half a minute in your mouth, gargle for another half minute, and then spit it out. In place of salt in the water, you can also add one or two pinches of cayenne pepper to lukewarm water, and allow the combination to sit in your mouth for as much time as you can control. The cayenne pepper helps to draw mucous up and out. This works great for sore throats too.
You should first consult your physician if you notice a white layer on your tongue. Let the doctor confirm the underlying cause of the condition. Then you may discuss with him, and opt for the home remedies.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be substituted for the advice of a medical professional.