What is a White Tongue?

Have you ever noticed a strange white coating on your tongue’s surface? You may also experience bad breath, a hairy feeling, and irritation with that, too. While a white tongue can look very unappealing and concerning, it is normally harmless and would go away on its own. However, a persistent white tongue that lasts for a few weeks or causes discomfort while you eat and talk should be checked by a professional.

When the papillae–the fingerlike texture on your tongue–are overgrowing or swelling, they start collecting bacteria and dead cells between them. This build-up of debris can leave an unpleasant taste in your mouth and bad breath. The papillae can get inflamed, too.

What causes a white tongue?

The causes of a white tongue can be varied. Some causes include poor oral hygiene, dry mouth, dehydration, mouth breathing, excessive alcohol use, fever, or a low roughage diet. While these factors are common, a white tongue can be a sign of several risks;

Leukoplakia is a condition where white patches or spots form in your mouth and may stem from heavy smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

Oral thrush is an infection caused when there is an overgrowth of Candida yeast inside the mouth.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) with several symptoms, including a white tongue

Geographic tongue causes red patches with white borders on your tongue. It happens more commonly in people with eczema, psoriasis, or Type 1 diabetes.

Oral lichen planus is likely to be related to your body’s immune system. It is a chronic inflammatory mouth condition that involves white patches on your tongue, inner cheeks, and gums.

Can a white tongue be treated?

A white tongue usually goes away within a few weeks but practising optimum oral hygiene and staying hydrated can hasten the process. Some tips you can try at home include:

  • Drinking at least eight glasses of water daily
  • Gently brushing or scraping your tongue using a tongue scraper to remove the white coating
  • Avoid cigarettes and vape pens as they can expose your tongue to more toxins
  • Avoid foods that can irritate your tongue especially if they are spicy, salty, acidic, or hot.
  • Use a mild fluoride toothpaste. Oradex Periodontal Toothpaste contains effective levels of fluoride to remineralise the enamel and panthenol and hyaluronic acid to nourish gum tissues.
  • Use an alcohol-free, therapeutic mouthwash daily. Oradex Everyday Antiseptic contains antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties to effectively improve oral health in the long run.

If this condition becomes painful or persists for weeks, get treated by a professional.

Preventing a white tongue

By doing the bare minimum of practising good oral hygiene with the right products, you can greatly reduce the chances of getting a white tongue. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, rinse your mouth thoroughly with a mouthwash, floss daily, and consume healthy, clean foods.


White Tongue | Cleveland Clinic

Symptoms: White Tongue | Mayo Clinic

Maintaining Oral Health as a Senior Adult

Ageing is an inevitable part of life and can affect oral health. Below are some age-related oral health risks.

Gum disease is caused by plaque and can worsen with tobacco, ill-fitting bridges and dentures, food residue in teeth, and certain diseases like anemia and diabetes–which are common problems for senior adults.

Root decay is the result of the tooth root being exposed to acids as gum tissues begin to recede from the tooth. Unlike teeth, roots do not have any enamel to protect them from decay.

Darkened teeth areusually caused by a lifetime of consuming foods and beverages that stain–like tomato sauce, wine, et cetera. Otherwise, the natural thinning of the outer enamel layer can expose the dentin, which is darker and yellower. A darkened tooth or teeth should be checked by a professional as it can be a sign of a more serious problem.

Uneven jawbone. Missing teeth in the mouth enable the rest of the teeth to drift and shift around into open spaces in the gums, sometimes causing the jawbone to be lopsided.

Apart from that, certain age-related medical conditions like arthritis may make brushing teeth difficult to perform. Certain drugs can greatly affect oral health, too, like dry mouth and thrushes.

To make matters more concerning, poor oral health can have an impact on social life when insecurities about one’s smile can make them feel less attractive and less likely to socialize; increasing their tendency to isolate.

Oral hygiene tips for senior adults

When it comes to caring for your teeth and gums as an ageing adult, prevention is the best medicine. While dental treatments can be costly, investing in optimum dental care and upkeep is ideal to maintain good oral health. Here are some basic yet crucial steps to follow in your routine;

  1. Rinse.  Before you brush or floss, rinse with plain water to remove any food particles stuck between your teeth and gums.
  2. Brush your teeth at least twice a dayfor no less than two minutes each time.If you are dealing with arthritis, opt for an electrical toothbrush to get more strokes. Choose a toothpaste with safe yet effective levels of fluoride. Oradex’s Periodontal Toothpaste contains decay- and plaque-fighting fluorides and is suitable for daily use, while Oradex Antibacterial Gel Toothpaste is incredibly gentle and suitable for those with sensitive teeth and gums. Explore our range of toothpaste here. 
  3. Use a mouthwash. Choose Oradex’s therapeutic, alcohol-free Everyday Antiseptic Mouthwash to effectively control plaque, gingivitis, disease-causing germs, and cavities in the long term. Find the product here.
  4. Floss after a meal daily, if possible. Instead of sawing back and forth, begin at the gum line, and slide it up and down the tooth several times. This motion helps to clean the tooth better, without excessive friction that can irritate the gums. If you have difficulties flossing, opt for over-the-counter tools like threaded flossers and tiny brushes that can reach areas between the teeth.

Maintaining good oral health when you’re a senior adult can be challenging, especially with factors like arthritis and other age-related health conditions at play. With the right oral care products and routine, you can slow down the effects of ageing on your teeth and gums.


The Senior’s Guide to Dental Care | Harvard Health Publishing

Dental Care for Seniors | WebMD