It might happen that you are brushing your teeth; you look yourself in the mirror and wonder why is my tongue white? A white tongue seems alarming, however, it is usually temporary and harmless. It is caused due to presence of bacteria; debris and dead cells, which accumulate and coat the tongue, making it look white. Sometimes, it can be due to infections or even precancerous conditions. If it persists, and you have white spots or coating on your tongue, you can get it checked by a doctor or dentist.
Why Is My Tongue White?
1. Debris on Tongue
The tongue is made of finger like projections known as papillae, in which the debris gets lodged, giving it a white coating. These papillae can over grow and swollen as well. Use tongue scrapers can help. Some of its causes are given below:
- Dry mouth, dehydration or breathing by mouth
- Poor oral hygiene
- Tobacco use, smoking, drinking alcohol
- Having very low fiber in the diet
- Damage caused due to dental appliance or sharp edges of the tooth
This condition can cause a white patch to appear in the mouth, gums and inside of checks, sometimes even on the tongue. It is painless, however, and does not disappear on brushing or scraping. It is caused due to high production of cells in the mouth, along with deposition of keratin.
Consumption of high amount of alcohol along with smoking can cause leukoplakia. It is not usually dangerous, but the patch can turn cancerous. You should get the patch checked to ensure that it is not increasing or spreading to other parts of the mouth.
3. Oral Lichen Planus
This is a condition caused by the immune system and is a long-term disorder. In this condition there are white lacy streaks in the mouth along with patches. It can cause burning sensation, discomfort, red gums and sore patches, which are painful. It is not contagious and the cause is not known.
Treatment might not be required for mild cases, however, for severe cases you can try using mouthwash containing antiseptic. A mouth rinse made by dissolving steroid tablets or using steroid sprays can help.
4. Oral Thrush
One of the common answers to why is my tongue white is oral thursh. It is a type of yeast infection, caused by a fungus. It usually causes a burning sensation on the tongue. There are sore white plaques also present, which can be scraped off. Oral thrush is commonly seen in:
- People who have diabetes
- Infants and elderly
- Have iron or vitamin b deficiency
- Are often used to taking antibiotics
- Have a weakened immune system
- Wear dentures
You should get it checked from the doctor, who will usually prescribe antifungal medicines.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria. When a person has oral sex with someone who is infected, it can give rise to sore or ulcer on the tongue, which is usually painless. It can take 10 days to 3 weeks, after the person is exposed to the infection, for the sore to appear. It is treated by a single dose of penicillin. If it is not treated it can cause syphilitic leukoplakia which has white plaques on the tongue.
6. More Serious Causes
Some other conditions, which can cause the tongue to be white, are – mouth cancer, tongue cancer and HIV/AIDS.
If the symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks and do not subside, it is important that a doctor checks it. They will investigate to find out the cause and rule out conditions as well.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of White Tongue
Now that you have found out the causes for your question – why is my tongue white? We will look at some home remedies for the same.
Using salt is one of the best remedies for getting rid of white patches on a tongue. Since it is coarse in texture, it scrapes the tongue naturally and removes the dead cells and debris. It is anti-septic as well, and therefore will kill the bacteria from the mouth.
How to use: Use salt with toothbrush or saline water to gargle.
When white coating on tongue is caused by candida fungus, probiotics, which contain helpful bacteria, should be used. They contain L.acidophilus and B.lactic, which control the bacterial growth and flora in the mouth.
How to use: You can include yogurt in the diet, take supplements or making a mouthwash from probiotic capsule. However, swallow the mouthwash after swishing in the mouth.
3. Vegetable Glycerin
This is a popular, tried and tested method, effective especially when the white patch is caused due to dry mouth. Using this prevents bad breath as well.
How to use: Put this on the tongue and gently brush the tongue with a soft toothbrush. Rinse using warm water and do this twice daily.
4. Oil Pulling
This is an old ayurvedic practice which helps in oral thrush induced white tongue. The yeast from the oral thrush is removed by this method.
How to use: Take 1 tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil or sesame oil and swish around the mouth for 15 minutes or till it turns milky. Spit out in trash and rinse mouth with warm water.
5. Hydrogen Peroxide
The strong antibacterial property of this compound kills the bacteria from the white patches, thus treating the coated tongue. It also makes the teeth white.
How to use: 3% solution should be used, in which toothbrush should be dipped and used to gently scrape the tongue. Mouth should be rinsed thoroughly with water. This should be done for 3-4 days.
6. Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe Vera has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and healing properties, which helps in killing the bacteria from the white patches and also deals with bad breath.
How to use: Rinse mouth with a tablespoon of aloe vera juice and spit out. Follow this with drinking 1 tablespoon of juice. This should be done for 2 weeks.
7. Regular Brushing
Use your toothbrush to brush the tongue, which will help in removing the dead cells, debris and bacteria that is stuck in the tongue. This can be done by using toothpaste, which will ensure fresh breath or you can do it without paste. Do this gently, so that it does not hurt or irritate the tongue.
When to See a Doctor
Since white patches on the tongue are usually harmless, the home remedies should help. However, you should consult the doctor in the following conditions:
- If you notice any changes in the tongue
- If you experience pain in the tongue or if it hurts
- The white patch is present for more than few weeks.