Whitish tongue white coated tongue white film on tongue

Whitish tongue – What It Means & When To See Dentist

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White tongue –Signs, Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Do you suffer from a whitish tongue? Is your tongue coated with plaque? You are not alone. Check out this guide to possible causes of a white tongue and how to fix it.

The tongue helps you to taste food, ensures that you talk fluently, and helps in digesting food and maintaining oral cleanliness. But there may come a time when the tongue becomes poor in health.

A white tongue can signal many oral health problems. If you have a coated tongue or a white tongue, you need to consult a dental health expert to figure out the cause.

You may have also landed on this page if you were looking for solutions for white bumps on your tongue. If that is the case, check out this post for possible causes of tongue bumps.

White tongue meaning for your health

Whitish tongue white coated tongue white film on tongue

Seeing a white tongue when you look in the mirror can cause you to panic but most likely, this condition won’t harm you. If you notice a coating on your tongue that looks whitish, then you have a white coated tongue. There could be several reasons for a white tongue.

This could be in the form of white patches on tongue or a whitish coating that covers the entire tongue. While you do not have to worry so much about a white film on tongue, you must know that this condition can signal more severe conditions such as an infection or cancer.

Understanding white tongue symptoms and checking for the signs regularly is important. If you noticed that you’ve got white stuff on tongue or white spots on tongue that refused to clear up after two weeks, do not hesitate to get in touch with your dentist quickly. 

But why exactly do you develop a whitish tongue? What are the white tongue causes and is there an available treatment? Keep reading to find out.

Whitish tongue – Possible causes of white coated tongue

  • Inadequate flossing and brushing
  • Dehydration
  • Oral breathing (try mouth taping to solve this!)
  • Dry mouth
  • Consuming too many soft foods
  • Irritation
  • Use of tobacco
  • Fever
  • Use of alcohol

The number one reason for a whitish tongue would be poor oral hygiene resulting in plaque buildup on the tongue resulting in plaque buildup on the tongue. A white tongue oftentimes has a lot to do with your level of oral hygiene. If the tiny bumps found on your tongue become inflamed and swollen, you could develop a whitish tongue.

Your tongue becomes white because the enlarged tiny bumps can start to accumulate bacteria, food & debri particles as well as dead cells and fungi. All these debris can lead to a white film on the tongue. 

Be sure to use a tongue scraper to get help scrape plaque off of you tongue. Read more here about the benefits of using a tongue scraper.

I highly recommend using an electric toothbrush. You can check out my favorite one in this BURST toothbrush review. Bonus: I’m giving you a huge coupon to save big!

Watch the video below to check out causes of white tongue

Conditions that could lead to white patches on tongue

If you notice white patches on your tongue. Here are some possible reasons:

  • Oral lichen planus

People who suffer from this condition find that their immune system becomes faulty. This leads to white patches in the mouth, as well as on the tongue. Apart from your coated tongue, you may also experience sore gums and possibly develop sores in your mouth lining.

  • Leukoplakia

If you develop this condition, you will notice white patches forming inside your cheeks. You may also experience white patches on your tongue and along your gums. Using tobacco can lead to leukoplakia and excessive alcohol intake can be another cause. While these patches may not cause you any harm, there are cases where the condition progresses into mouth cancer.

  • Oral thrush

Candida yeast is the culprit for this mouth infection. Diabetics have a higher risk of developing oral thrush. The same applies to people who have a compromised immune system due to conditions like HIV/AIDS. Patients who use dentures or are iron/vitamin B deficient can also develop oral thrush.

  • Syphilis

Sores in the mouth can also occur from this sexually transmitted infection. Failure to properly treat the condition can lead to the formation of white patches on your tongue. 

Some more conditions that can lead to a whitish tongue are:

  • Oral cancer
  • Geographic tongue
  • Meds like antibiotics that could lead to oral yeast infections

Coated tongue – When to consult a dental health expert

Now that you know the possible causes of a coated tongue, when is the right time to reach out to a dental health professional?

Even if the white stuff on tongue looks odd and horrible to the eyes, the condition does not typically put you at risk of any sort of harm. But keep in mind that having a white tongue could be a signal of an underlying, severe health problem.

If you notice that your whitish tongue is accompanied by pain, you should consider seeing your dentist. Other reasons to consult your dentist would be if you notice that the coating does not disappear after a couple of weeks or if you are overly concerned. If it looks like more than just a plaque coating on your tongue then visit your dentist to rule out anything else.

Treatment for white coating on tongue

If the cause of your white tongue is a disorder, your doctor will determine the best form of medical treatment to remedy the situation.

Oral lichen planus can be remedied with the help of corticosteroids in very serious cases. Other times, all your dentist or doctor will do is to monitor the situation.

Should your condition be caused by oral thrush, antifungal medicines will be administered to treat it. These antifungal meds are usually available as oral drops to be administered for 7 to 14 days. 

The healthcare professional will monitor your situation if leukoplakia is the cause of your white tongue causes. This is to ensure that the condition does not worsen. The antibiotic penicillin is usually administered in the case of syphilis. This is because it eliminates the bacteria responsible for your condition. Your white patches could also disappear if you reduce your use of tobacco and alcohol, and limit contact with irritants.

Prevention of a white tongue – what to do

Totally preventing a white tongue may not be possible but you can take steps to lower your risk of developing the condition. One of the most important steps is to maintain good oral hygiene.

When this white coating on the tongue is thriving, it also creates an environment that will enable bacteria to thrive and can aid in the cause of gum disease and cavities. The plaque coating on the tongue will likely also cause bad breath so be sure follow the steps below to treat white tongue coating.

Some of the ways to do this include –

  • Use a tongue scraper to scrape plaque, food and bacteria off of your tongue daily
  • Make use of a fluoride mouthwash every day
  • Floss regularly
  • Brush two to three times daily for two minutes each time
  • Get yourself a soft-bristled brush
  • Make use of a fluoride toothpaste

Final thoughts

Maintaining good oral hygiene can reduce your risk of developing a whitish tongue. As you do so, make sure to visit your dentist from time to time for a cleaning and checkup. Avoid using tobacco and limit your alcohol intake. These steps should help you maintain a healthy oral environment.

Kelly Hancock, RDH

Kelly is a registered dental hygienist and oral health care provider. She is passionate about oral hygiene and encourages people to achieve optimal oral health. She has been working in the dental profession for 16 years and worked in many different roles in the dental industry. Kelly is currently a pediatric dental hygienist specializing in children’s dentistry. She is committed to helping others with their oral health care issues and helping others achieve a smile they love.

This article and all advice on this website, Toothbrush Life, is intended to help people gain knowledge about general oral health topics. No articles or advice on this website are intended to replace professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or qualified healthcare provider to help you with any questions you have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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