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Why is My Tongue White?

Hundreds of different bacteria species live in the mouth, most of which are harmless and help with digestion. But sometimes an overgrowth of bacteria, immune diseases, or other pre-existing health conditions can cause tongue discoloration or other mouth symptoms. If you’ve noticed your tongue doesn’t have the smooth, pink appearance it should, these 4 white tongue causes might be to blame. Charlotte, NC dentist Dr. Durning Moore can help you uncover the cause and achieve a healthy smile.

Causes of White Tongue Discoloration

You may be familiar with the “mouth-body link,” which is the close relationship between your oral health and your overall health. Oral health problems can cause health problems like heart disease, but the link goes both ways. Systemic problems, like immune diseases, often appear in the mouth, such as lesions associated with HIV.

Here are just 4 possible causes of white tongue and what to do about it:

1. Oral Thrush

Oral thrush can cause a white or yellow film to form on the tongue and can cause discomfort when eating and drinking. Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the mouth, which can be a result of poor oral hygiene, a weakened immune system, or antibiotics.

Treatment for oral thrush involves antifungal medication, adding a mouthwash, and excellent oral hygiene. Some oral thrush resolves on its own with proper oral care. Your doctor may also recommend adding probiotics to your diet if you experience oral thrush as a result of antibiotics.

2. Poor Oral Hygiene

Most of the time, a white tongue is a result of poor oral hygiene. The tongue has small bumps, called papillae, which can become swollen, inflamed, and discolored if there is an overgrowth of bacteria, yeast, or even with dehydration. Consider adding a tongue scraper to your oral hygiene routine and using an ADA-accepted mouthwash to help with bacteria buildup. 

3. Oral lichen planus

An autoimmune inflammatory problem can cause white patches to form in the mouth and cause sore gums. Most of the time, oral lichen planus resolves on its own, but some cases require a steroid mouth rinse or a steroid spray. 

4. Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia causes white patches to form inside the cheeks, on the tongue, and along the gums. People who smoke, chew tobacco, or consume excessive amounts of alcohol are at risk of leukoplakia. In most cases, these white patches are harmless, but in rare cases, leukoplakia turns into oral cancer. See your healthcare provider or dentist if you notice white patches in the mouth that do not go away.

White Tongue Treatment in Charlotte, NC

Although most cases of white tongue resolve on their own, it’s still a good idea to visit your dentist to receive a correct diagnosis. Don’t wait until it’s too late to identify a problem with your smile. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Moore online or call us at (704) 275-5323 today.