Why Is My Tongue White?

Do not become alarmed if you chance to detect a white tint covering your tongue or a few white patches here and there. Typically, there is little cause for concern with this ailment, often known as white tongue. However, in certain instances, this symptom may indicate a more serious illness, such as an infection or an early stage of oral cancer.

What exactly is white tongue and what can be done to prevent it? We’ve spoken with specialists to explain every reason why you might have a white tongue, how to cure it, and when to visit a doctor to rule out any serious conditions.

What is white tongue?

Parul Dua Makkar, D.D.S., a dentist at Family Dental in Jericho, New York, explains that our tongue possesses these projections that resemble fingers and are known as papillae. It is possible for food, bacteria, or other debris to become stuck in those inflamed papillae, which can give your tongue a white appearance, according to Makkar. She continues by mentioning that this ailment can also cause foul taste, bad breath, redness, or discomfort.

What brings about white tongue?

The chief clinical officer at SmileDirectClub, Jeffrey Sulitzer, D.M.D., notes that a white tongue is frequently a sign of poor oral hygiene. Insufficient brushing and flossing, dry mouth, dehydration, use of tobacco and alcohol, among other factors, are some of the causes of this illness, he says.

Sulitzer advises utilizing an electric toothbrush and water flosser to ensure that you are brushing and flossing more thoroughly. “For brushing, I advise that you brush your teeth right after every meal to avoid the growth of plaque and harmful bacteria. Make careful to rinse your mouth out and brush your tongue.

According to Sulitzer, flossing once or twice a day is essential for removing bacteria that collects between your teeth. Consider water flossers if you’re uncomfortable with standard flossers; they’re typically more convenient and pleasant.

A white tongue can result from a variety of behaviours or situations, in addition to poor dental hygiene. Here are some of the usual suspects, according to Makkar:

  • Poor brushing and flossing
  • Not keeping your tongue clean
  • Breathing through your mouth
  • Dehydration
  • Fever
  • Smoking or tobacco use
  • Alcohol use
  • Eating lots of soft foods
  • Irritation, such as from sharp edges on chipped teeth or dental appliances (braces, dentures, etc.)

Additionally, some medical problems might cause white coatings or spots on your tongue. Makkar speculates that the following medical issues may be to blame for your appearance of whiteness:

Infection: Some drugs, such antibiotics, might get your mouth infected with yeast. Your tongue may seem white as a result of this. If you wear dentures for an extended period of time, you could possibly have a fungal infection.

White patches can develop on the inside of your cheeks, along your gum line, and occasionally even on your tongue due to the condition leukoplakia. If you smoke or chew tobacco, you could get leukoplakia. Another factor is abusing alcohol too much. Usually innocuous, the white patches. Leukoplakia can, however, very rarely progress to oral cancer.

Lichen planus: A white patch-like condition known as lichen planus can appear on your tongue. Your gums might be painful, and your tongue may be white. Additionally, you can get sores on the inside of your mouth.

Geographic tongue: This ailment is entirely typical and typically not cause for concern. People with a geographic tongue frequently have areas of red and white on their tongue that form a pattern. Many patients have no symptoms at all, while some patients can report sensitivity to hot or acidic meals.

Syphilis: A sexually transmitted disease that can lead to mouth sores. Your tongue may develop white spots known as syphilitic leukoplakia if syphilis is left untreated.

Hypothyroidism: If your thyroid gland is underactive, it can show up in your mouth in a variety of ways. A few examples are white tongue, swelling tongue, and taste abnormalities.

White patches may be a warning indication for mouth or oral malignancies. A lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal, a white or reddish area on the inside of your mouth, loose teeth, growths or lumps within your mouth, mouth discomfort, ear ache, or trouble swallowing are some additional noticeable signs of mouth cancer.

How is white tongue treated?

You might be able to get rid of the white coating by brushing your tongue and drinking enough of water to eliminate the extra bacteria from your mouth, suggests Sulitzer, as a white tongue is probably the result of poor oral hygiene. Makkar advises, “keep the area clean, brush, and/or use a tongue scraper,” in general. Sulitzer cautions that if the problem does not get better, you should see your dentist to figure out what to do next.

The top priority, according to Makkar, is to have your dentist or orthodontist correct any dental appliances, such as dentures or braces, that are causing your white tongue to itch.

The answer won’t be as easy and obvious if, however, a medical ailment is the reason for your white tongue. Before you can treat your white tongue, you’ll need to find out what’s causing it.

Your doctor will probably give you an antifungal prescription if you have a fungal infection, according to Makkar. Doctor will probably give you a course of antibiotics if it is discovered that you have syphilis. Your doctor will probably prescribe steroids if you have lichen planus and the white spots start to hurt. Additionally, there are drugs that can be administered for hypothyroidism to mitigate its symptoms.

Only a biopsy can determine if someone has oral cancer. According to Makkar, a multispecialty treatment strategy will likely be used if it is determined that you have oral cancer.

How can white tongue be avoided?

According to Makkar, maintaining good oral hygiene, staying hydrated, and eating a balanced diet are the three most crucial things you can do to avoid developing white tongue. She goes on to say that you shouldn’t limit yourself to soft foods and that you should always eat a good, well-balanced dinner.

Sulitzer advises “practising proper oral care by brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, and using mouthwash” to avoid developing a white tongue in the first place. He also stresses the importance of quitting smoking and the need for routine dental checkups and cleanings every six months.

When should I see a specialist?

According to Makkar, the only method to diagnose a white is to visit, have it biopsied, and have it examined by the proper medical professional. If your white tongue has been identified, “go in, get it diagnosed, and get the right care” if it has “been standing for more than two weeks.”

Makkar offers the following additional justifications for seeking immediate medical attention for your white tongue:

  • If you see the white patch or lesion getting bigger
  • If the white patch or lesion is causing discomfort, or if it becomes painful in some way
  • If there’s a white lesion that doesn’t rub off and its long-standing
  • If the white patch or lesion not gone within two weeks

According to Makkar, a white lesion is typically nothing to worry about; it only becomes a concern if it persists for longer than two weeks, if the symptoms worsen or enlarge, if there is any pain or discomfort when moving the tongue or if it interferes with daily activities like eating, drinking, and talking. “At that point, you should have it examined.”

Last but not least, Makkar advises going for regular checkups even though some of us dread going to the dentist because a white tongue could indicate more serious conditions.

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