A healthy tongue is usually pink in color. The tongue can assume a white or yellowish-white appearance due to poor oral hygiene. Bacteria, fungi, debris, and dead cells can build up on the surface of the tongue due to poor oral hygiene and dehydration.
But sometimes, a white tongue can be associated with certain underlying health conditions like oral thrush, which is caused by an overgrowth of the fungus candida albicans. Apart from oral thrush, several other conditions can cause a white tongue, which are discussed below, along with the treatment or cure for this condition.
A white tongue is usually not an alarming condition. Poor oral hygiene can cause debris, dead cells, and bacteria to build up on the surface of the tongue, giving it a whitish appearance.
Breathing through the mouth or mouth breathing can cause the papillae or taste buds to get inflamed. Debris, dead cells, and bacteria can get lodged in such inflamed papillae, and make the tongue white. Sometimes, dehydration can also cause this condition. Some cells present on the surface of the tongue can die due to dehydration, which can get lodged in the papillae and cause the appearance of white spots on the tongue.
Excessive smoking and tobacco use can cause a condition known as leukoplakia, which is characterized by the appearance of white patches inside the mouth or the oral cavity, including the tongue. This condition is usually caused by the long-term irritation of the mouth and the tongue. Leukoplakia can be benign or it can be a precursor to oral cancer. Another possible cause of a white tongue is geographic tongue, where irregular and smooth, red patches with white borders develop on parts of the tongue.
Another condition that can cause a white tongue is oral lichen planus. This chronic autoimmune disorder is characterized by the appearance of white lacy patches and open sores in the mouth and the tongue. What exactly causes the disease is not known, but it has been observed to run in families. Factors that can trigger this condition are, hepatitis C infection, hepatitis B vaccine, an allergy to food and other substances, and the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
An overgrowth of the fungus candida albicans in the mouth can cause oral thrush, which can give your tongue a cottage cheese-like appearance. Along with the tongue, white patches or lesions can develop inside the cheeks as well. The lesions can be painful, and they can bleed if you try to scrape them off. This condition is more common in infants and people with a weakened immune system. Factors that can trigger an episode of oral thrush are, prolonged use of antibiotics and corticosteroids, and diseases like HIV/AIDS, cancer, and diabetes.
White Tongue Cure
If a white tongue is associated with nothing but the accumulation of debris, and bacterial overgrowth, it can be cured by maintaining proper oral hygiene. This condition can be easily alleviated by brushing your teeth and tongue daily, along with regular flossing. But if it is caused by an underlying health condition, then medical treatment can be required.
If the condition is caused by oral thrush, you may need to follow a candida diet, and maintain proper oral hygiene. The fungus that causes oral thrush thrives on sugar and simple carbohydrates. So, consider to exclude these items from your diet. You can also consider to take probiotic supplements. Oral thrush can also be treated with some simple and effective home remedies like unsweetened yogurt, garlic, and buttermilk. Antifungal medications are required only when the infection is severe in nature.
For treating leukoplakia, it is imperative to talk to your physician, as these lesions can be precancerous at times. So, only a certified physician can evaluate this condition, and determine whether medical treatment is required. In general, this condition can be managed by maintaining oral hygiene, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol. If required, your physician may remove the patches with a scalpel or laser. Sometimes, a cold probe can also be used to freeze the lesions.
No treatment is required for oral lichen planus, if the lesions are not severe and they do not cause any pain or discomfort. If pain and inflammation are present, then your physician may prescribe a corticosteroid mouthwash, ointment, or gel after evaluating the condition. Retinoid ointments and medications that suppress the immune system may be recommended, but these medications are usually not employed for the treatment of oral lichen planus.
The following home remedies can also provide relief, if you develop white patches or lesions on the tongue:
✔ Gargle your mouth several times a day with saline water. Mix about ½ teaspoon salt in a glass of water, and gargle your mouth thoroughly with it before spitting it out. You can also use a mouthwash to maintain good oral hygiene.
✔ Scrape off the white patches by brushing them, if they are not very painful. First, sprinkle some salt on the tongue, and then brush it with your toothbrush. You can also use a tongue scraper for cleaning the tongue.
✔ Baking soda is an effective home remedy for a white tongue. It can check the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Just mix a small amount of baking soda with lemon juice, and rub your tongue with the mixture.
✔ Drink plenty of water throughout the day, as a white tongue can be caused by dehydration as well. Consider to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water daily.
✔ Limit your alcohol consumption and consider to quit smoking, as these habits can aggravate the problem.
If the condition persists even after taking proper oral care, then consider to visit your physician. After examining the tongue, your physician would perform certain diagnostic tests to ascertain the underlying causes of a white tongue. On the basis of the results of such diagnostic tests, he or she would prescribe the appropriate medications.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be considered as a substitute for professional medical advice.