What is a White Tongue?

Posted on December 29, 2023 8:00 am

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