Cardi B

A white, coated tongue is a common condition that is usually not a cause for concern unless it is an underlying sign of a medical condition.

What Causes Coated Or White Tongue?

Coated tongue is usually caused by poor oral hygiene. It occurs when the tiny pink bumps on the surface of the tongue (called papillae) swell up and trap oral debris underneath. Oral debris includes dead cells, bacteria, dirt, and food particles that get trapped and turn your tongue white.

Conditions that can cause coated tongue include:

  • Lack of brushing and flossing
  • Dry mouth
  • Mouth breathing
  • Eating soft foods
  • Irritation from sharp teeth or tongue rings
  • Smoking cigarettes or weed
  • Alcoholism
  • Medical conditions that cause coated tongue include oral thrush, which is a Candida yeast infection in the mouth that is usually associated with HIV/AIDS, diabetes, weak immune system, or iron and vitamin B deficiency.

    Other conditions include:

  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Leukoplakia (white patches that usually benign)
  • Oral lichen planus (immune disorder)
  • Syphilis
  • Geographic tongue (missing patches of papillae)
  • Other factors that cause coated tongue include not brushing your tongue when you brush your teeth, and taking certain medications such as antibiotics.

    What Are My Treatment Options for a Coated Tongue?

    Coated tongue usually does not require any treatment. The coating usually clears up on its own.

    If the white patches are caused by a medical condition, they usually clear up after the medical condition is treated by a doctor.

    When Should I See a Doctor for Coated Tongue?

  • Your tongue is painful or burning
  • You have open sores in your mouth
  • You have white, cottage cheese-like deposits on your tongue or in your throat
  • You have difficulty swallowing
  • Your tongue is swollen and dry
  • You have fever, weight loss, or skin rash
  • How Can I Prevent Coated Tongue?

    Good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent coated or white tongue. Use a soft bristle brush to gently brush your tongue after you brush your teeth. Use fluoride toothpaste and a fluoride mouthwash. Brush your teeth twice a day, once in the morning and again at night. Floss your teeth after every meal (carry disposable fluoride picks in your purse).

    See your dentist every 6 months for a checkup. Your dentist will assess your tongue to see if you need a special toothpaste or mouthwash.

    Cut out smoking cigarettes and/or marijuana.

    Drink plenty of water — at least 8 glasses a day. Eat a balanced diet including fresh fruit and vegetables with every meal.

    This has been your Medical Minute.


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