The tongue may not be the window to your soul, but it can certainly play a role in indicating what’s going on within your body. Just by looking at its color and texture, you might be able to tell if you’ve got some health issues. Still, pinpointing which problem you’re facing might prove difficult. Luckily, this article can help you find out what you’re dealing with.
So, what does it mean when your tongue is white? Learn about the most common causes of a white tongue below and see how you can treat them.
Is a White Tongue Bad?
The truth is, many people find a white coating on their tongue a pretty common occurrence. It essentially results from swelling and overgrowth of papillae on this organ’s surface. More often than not, this white layer stems from bacteria and debris sticking to the inflamed papillae.
While this condition can affect anyone, some people are typically more prone to developing it than others. Due to a number of unhealthy habits or potential health issues, you may thus find yourself fighting the symptoms of a white tongue quite frequently.
In that case, check out the following list of risk factors to see what makes you so susceptible to this condition. Typically, people who regularly have a white tongue are also the ones who:
• have a weak immune system
• have diabetes
• are very young (infants and toddlers) or very old
• frequently use antibiotics
• wear dentures
• have hypothyroidism
• breathe through their mouth
• don’t eat enough fruits and veggies
• smoke or chew tobacco
• have poor oral hygiene
• don’t drink enough water
• have more than one alcoholic drink a day
• are undergoing cancer treatments
While a white tongue isn’t necessarily harmful in and of itself, it can be an indicator of a number of underlying conditions. Thus, seeing your dentist as soon as you get it might be the smart thing to do. Or else, you can try ruling out the possible causes yourself — providing you aren’t feeling too much pain.
What Does It Mean When Your Tongue Is White?
Getting to the roots of your white tongue might prove quite an endeavor, especially if you have no other health-related issues. The reason is that this condition can be the symptom of several different illnesses or unhealthy habits.
So, to trace down the main culprit, you may want to start by eliminating the ones that can’t possibly apply to you. Below, you’ll find some of the most common reasons you might be suffering from this condition.
What Can Cause a White Tongue?
1. Poor Oral Hygiene
Among the least severe causes of your white tongue lies the inadequate care for your teeth and mouth. At the same time, improper oral hygiene is one of the most common reasons this condition happens.
The small bumps on your tongue (the papillae) can easily become swollen or inflamed, losing their color in the process. As it goes, this happens due to the overgrowth of yeast and bacteria in your mouth. After all, it’s nothing some more thorough brushing and flossing won’t be able to solve.
Like the poor oral hygiene from above, dehydration can increase the number of bacteria in your mouth. It can thus cause the condition known as dry mouth, which often results in a white tongue.
Essentially, a dry mouth serves as a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria. So, if you don’t drink enough water and rinse/brush your teeth and mouth at least twice a day, you’ve likely found the root of your problem.
3. Oral Thrush
White patches on your tongue can also happen due to oral thrush — a fungal infection of the papillae. If so, you might be able to notice a thick red coating, too. Candida yeast overgrowth can thus be very unpleasant and might cause you trouble swallowing.
This condition can directly relate to a weakened immune system resulting from diseases like AIDS or diabetes. More commonly, though, it stems from vitamin B and iron deficiency that you can solve by simply taking supplements.
Leukoplakia is a medical condition that affects your tongue, gums, and cheeks. This usually painless disease can cause the above parts of your mouth to develop white spots.
If you smoke or chew tobacco, you’ll be more susceptible to developing leukoplakia. But the good news is that this condition is harmless most of the time. Even so, the people who have it might need to be wary since leukoplakia also increases the risk of mouth cancer.
5. Geographic Tongue
Benign migratory glossitis is an inflammatory disorder that happens when the skin on your tongue is regrowing. Also called geographic tongue, it leaves bald, red patches with white borders on the surface of this organ.
The disease occurs as the upper layers of your tongue start shedding at different speeds. Thus, the ones changing too quickly usually become red and infected. On the other hand, some other sections of your tongue seem to stay intact for too long — resulting in those annoying white patches.
6. Oral Lichen Planus
Unlike most white tongue causes on our list, oral lichen planus is a chronic disease. It refers to a long-lasting inflammatory mouth condition that usually stems from an immune system disorder.
Apart from the white patches all over your tongue, you might be able to notice redness and swelling. Though these symptoms may never go away completely, you should be able to control them with certain medications.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection mostly affecting the genitals and the rectum. In the mouth, it can leave sores or chancres near your tonsils, on your gums, and on the tip of your tongue.
This disease can thus result in white tongue patches known as syphilitic leukoplakia. Fortunately, syphilis is highly treatable in its early stages. So, in case you suspect it, notify your dentist or primary care physician as soon as possible.
If you don’t believe any of the above white tongue causes are to blame for your condition, you might be dealing with some other disease. As it goes, a white tongue can also be the symptom of:
• soft-food diet
• mechanical irritation
• tongue injury (biting or burning)
• mouth ulcer
• mouth or tongue cancer
What Are the Symptoms of a White Tongue?
Apart from the obvious white coating over your tongue, you might experience some other white tongue-related symptoms. For instance, you can have trouble chewing, swallowing, or talking.
Your mouth can also appear sore, and it may seem like your tongue is burning all the time. Furthermore, it will be more likely for you to develop bad breath.
How to Get Rid of a White Tongue
Despite what the underlying condition might be, your white tongue should never go completely untreated. Instead of simply waiting until it goes away on its own, you should at least pay more attention to practicing good oral hygiene. Keep yourself hydrated and quit your bad habits.
Depending on the exact cause of your white tongue, you might need some more serious medical treatment. If so, pay a quick visit to your dentist or a proper care physician. They’ll likely do a biopsy before giving you the right kind of diagnosis. Unfortunately, some of the causes of a white tongue might only be treated with prescription drugs.
On the other hand, less severe conditions won’t require hospital treatment. In that case, consider the following ways of curing your white tongue at home.
10 Natural Cures to Treat a White Tongue at Home
1. Practice Good Oral Hygiene
If you’re lucky, your situation will require nothing but a couple of extra brushes a day. Even if this isn’t the main cause of your white tongue, maintaining proper oral hygiene may be the possible way to your recovery.
So, remember to brush your teeth and gums a couple of times a day — after each meal. Yet another great idea might be tongue scraping, which should remove the white coating and treat your bad breath.
2. Eat Garlic
If you have doubts about garlic solving your mouth and breath problems — you’re probably not alone. Still, all the doubting Thomases will find this natural cure one of the most effective ways to treat a white tongue.
This plant has some antifungal properties enabling it to fight diseases like oral thrush. For instance, one of the active compounds found in garlic (allicin) seems to demonstrate certain antimicrobial effects.
3. Rinse With Aloe Vera Juice
As an excellent source of antioxidants, aloe vera juice can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. It also possesses antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties that help against momentary conditions.
Thus, you can use it to cure infections, skin irritations, and wounds like those white and red patches on your tongue. All you need to do is treat your mouth to one tablespoon of aloe vera juice a day.
4. Make a Sea Salt Mouthwash
Because sea salt displays natural antibacterial activities, it can prove beneficial for treating some mouth infections. So, mix some sea salt with water to make your mouthwash, and remember to apply it before brushing.
Less processed than table salt, this substance is richer in nutrients and minerals that might help with your condition. You can also use it to exfoliate your tongue, thus removing the white layer of coating over it.
5. Use Baking Soda
Using baking soda for something other than baking cakes and muffins is pretty customary nowadays. Because of the many beneficial properties of this compound, it has probably found its place inside your medicine cabinet.
Luckily, you can use baking soda to exfoliate your tongue and remove the white layer of debris around it. A simple mixture of this compound and lemon juice added to your toothpaste will help your mouth maintain a good pH value.
6. Detoxify with Coconut Oil Pulling
Among its many benefits, coconut oil seems to have the power to reduce inflammation by decreasing the number of harmful bacteria. The swishing technique called coconut oil pulling actually “pulls” bacteria from your mouth, moisturizes your gums, and increases saliva production.
You can try swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for 10-20 minutes. After spitting it out, use warm water to rinse your mouth and brush your teeth.
7. Make Use of Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver is a natural remedy for many health-related issues, including cancer, herpes, and skin disorders. Because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties, colloidal silver can reduce different kinds of inflammation and boost cell recovery.
If you’re looking to say goodbye to the white coating on your tongue, you’ll do that with just one tablespoon of colloidal silver two times a day. Add some water and swish the mixture in your mouth for about five minutes.
8. Drink Pau D’arco Tea
Pau D’Arco is a tree native to Brazil, believed to cure numerous conditions. It seems to inhibit inflammation and help decrease pain, reduce ulcers and boils, and treat many types of cancer.
Therefore, it can be a natural way to kill candida and cure your oral thrush at home. To make your remedy, add two cups of its bark to four cups of boiling water. Let the mixture sit in it for 20 minutes and then cool for an hour. Finally, after straining your tea, enjoy sipping it throughout the day.
9. Try Out Oregano Oil
Like many white tongue cures on our list, oregano oil has its fair share of health benefits. It can help against a range of bacteria and fungi, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds.
Oregano oil has thus been recognized for fighting Candida albicans in mice and in vitro. To use it for your white tongue, combine two drops of this oil with one cup of water.
10. Take Probiotics
As you already know, not all bacteria are harmful — many are even beneficial to your health and crucial for our organism’s balanced functioning. But if there’s an imbalance of healthy bacteria in your stomach, it can lead to white tongue conditions.
To regulate your gut bacteria, you can try eating probiotic foods. You can also include probiotic supplements in your regular diet, thus warding off potential infections.