Say ahhhhh in the mirror. More than likely your tongue is a pleasing shade of pink. Sometimes, however, your tongue may have a white coating. There might be white patches or your whole tongue can be white. Usually, a white tongue is harmless, but on rare occasions that strange looking tongue may indicate infection, or it can be an early warning sign of oral cancer. Read on to learn more about what can cause a white tongue and what a family dentist in Washington recommends.
What Can Cause A White Tongue?
Most of the time a white tongue is connected to your oral hygiene. Tiny bumps on your tongue called papillae may become swollen and inflamed. When this happens, bacteria, fungi, dirt, food and dead cells get trapped among the swollen papillae. This collection of debris is what causes your tongue to become white.
Conditions that may lead to a white tongue include:
- Inadequate brushing and flossing
- A dry mouth
- Breathing through your mouth
- A diet of mostly soft foods
- Using smoking or chewing tobacco
- Excessive alcohol use
Medical Conditions and a White Tongue
A number of medical conditions are linked to having a white tongue. Smokers may develop leukoplakia, a conditions that causes white patches on soft tissue. A problem with your immune system can lead to oral lichen planus, which results in white patches in your mouth and on your tongue. Your gums may be sore, too. Oral thrush is an infection in the mouth caused by Candida yeast. Syphilis is an STD that if not treated can lead to white patches on your tongue that are called syphilitic leukoplakia.
Treating a White Tongue
Leukoplakia and oral lichen planus usually do not require treatment, but check with your physician to be sure. An antifungal medication is often prescribed to treat oral thrush, and syphilis is treated with penicillin.
Sometimes all it takes to get rid of a white coating on your tongue is a good brushing with a soft toothbrush. You can also gently pull a tongue scraper over your tongue. Be sure to drink plenty of water in order to flush away bacteria and debris.
When to See a Dentist in Washington
If your white tongue doesn’t go away within two weeks, then you should see your dentist or physician. If you are experiencing a painful or burning tongue; an open sore; difficulty chewing, swallowing or talking; or a fever, rash or weight loss then call your dentist in Washington right away.
Meet the Doctor
Dr. James Mace is a family dentist in Washington, MO. He and his staff are committed to ensuring the health, beauty and longevity of every smile in your family. If you need to schedule an appointment for yourself or one of your children, contact us today.