What Causes White Tongue?

A white tongue, also known as “white coated tongue” or “oral thrush,” is a condition where the tongue develops a white coating or patches. It can be caused by various factors, including:

  1. Oral Candidiasis (Thrush): This is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida yeast in the mouth. It can lead to white patches on the tongue and inside the cheeks, often resembling curd-like or cottage cheese-like patches.
  2. Poor Oral Hygiene: Inadequate oral hygiene can lead to the accumulation of dead cells, bacteria, and food particles on the tongue’s surface, resulting in a white coating.
  3. Dry Mouth: Reduced saliva production or dry mouth can contribute to the accumulation of debris on the tongue, causing a white appearance.
  4. Tobacco Use: Smoking or using smokeless tobacco products can irritate the tongue’s surface, leading to a white appearance.
  5. Dehydration: Not drinking enough water can cause the tongue to dry out and develop a white coating.
  6. Irritation or Trauma: The tongue can develop a white appearance in response to physical irritation or injury, such as biting the tongue or using abrasive dental care products.
  7. Certain Foods: Consumption of certain foods, such as dairy products, spicy foods, or foods with strong flavors, can temporarily cause a white coating on the tongue.
  8. Oral Leukoplakia: This condition involves the formation of white patches on the tongue’s surface. While the exact cause is unknown, it can be associated with tobacco use or chronic irritation.
  9. Geographic Tongue: This benign condition causes irregular, smooth, red patches on the tongue’s surface, surrounded by white borders. The white areas are not due to a coating but rather due to loss of the papillae (small bumps on the tongue).
  10. Fever: During a fever, the tongue can develop a temporary white coating as a result of dehydration and mouth breathing.
  11. Certain Medical Conditions: Some systemic medical conditions, such as diabetes, immune system disorders, or certain gastrointestinal issues, can lead to white tongue as a symptom.
  12. Medications: Certain medications, such as antibiotics or corticosteroids, can disturb the balance of oral bacteria and yeast, leading to a white tongue.

If you notice persistent white patches or coating on your tongue or experience any discomfort, it’s a good idea to consult a dentist or healthcare professional. They can diagnose the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment, which may involve addressing the underlying condition, improving oral hygiene, using antifungal medications, or making lifestyle changes.