Have you ever noticed any discoloration on your tongue? It may be a strange color due to something you ate or drank, like blue icing on a cake, or bright red fruit punch. Sometimes the tongue will take on a whitish cast, either by just being paler than normal, or visibly white. It’s very disconcerting! Depending on the cause, it can be very minor, or quite serious, as it presents in a variety of situations.
Why is my tongue white?
When your tongue turns white, it’s because the papillae, the tiny projections that coat your tongue, have become swollen or overgrown. If this happens, your tongue is more prone to catching, and holding onto, any dead cells, bacteria, or debris within your mouth. All of these things build up on the surface of the tongue, giving it a white appearance.
What is the root cause of a coated tongue?
Generally, a coated tongue is not cause for alarm. It can be something as simple as having a dry mouth, or if you have a cold and just aren’t talking that much! There are a number of different things that are responsible for a white tongue. The most common include:
- Dry mouth
- Congenital heart disease
- Poor oral hygiene
- Alcohol use
- Breathing through the mouth
- Eating primarily soft/mashed foods
- Irritation from sharp edges of the teeth or dental work
Less common, but more serious, conditions can cause a coated tongue as well. They include, but are not limited to, things like:
- Certain medications
- Oral thrush
- Oral lichen planus
- Geographic tongue
- Mouth or tongue cancer
How do I treat a coated tongue?
The good news is, in most cases, a coated tongue is harmless and easily resolved. Simply use a tongue scraper, or brush your tongue when you brush your teeth, and drink plenty of water. The combination of agitating the surface of the tongue, along with proper hydration, will break up the coating of debris and bacteria, and rinse it away. This will allow the swollen papillae to return to normal, as they’re no longer surrounded by bacteria.
If following these steps does not resolve your coated tongue over the course of several weeks, if it hurts, or if you simply want to rule out any more serious health problems, talk to your doctor. Or if you suspect that poor oral hygiene is the reason for your coated tongue, make an appointment with Dr. Chauvin and get your oral health back on track!