White Tongue: Causes, Treatments & Prevention (2023 Guide)

While white tongue looks scary, it can usually be fixed with good oral hygiene. Learn about the causes of this condition and all you can do to prevent and treat it with this article.

14 min readWhite Tongue: Causes, Treatments & Prevention

Most of us don't think twice about our tongues on a daily basis, but when your tongue turns white, it's easy to focus on and get frightened by all the possibilities. White tongue is a common condition caused by bacteria, fungi, or dead skin cells getting trapped between the tiny bumps on your tongue.

While it is alarming to see a white coating on your tongue, it's harmless and easy to treat in most cases. In this article, we'll look at the causes, treatments, and prevention of white tongue to help you understand this condition better and ease your fears.

What Is White Tongue?: An Overview

According to Healthline, white tongue is a condition where the papillae, which are the bumps found on your tongue, become inflamed and swell because bacteria and other harmful substances are stuck between them, turning the tongue white. This whiteness does not go away with brushing, giving your tongue a permanently ugly appearance without treatment.

White tongue is caused by ingesting certain things that are not healthy for you, or by not taking proper care of your health in different ways. It causes a person to experience bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth, soreness and dryness of the throat, and difficulty swallowing. In some cases, white tongue is uncomfortable but it does not usually pose any serious health risks.

Why Is My Tongue White?: Common Causes

While having a white tongue is certainly alarming, Health says it's usually nothing serious and is treated through better oral hygiene habits, giving up smoking, and improving your diet by drinking more water and less caffeine or alcohol. But there are also some more serious causes of white tongue that you should be wary of.


While the word looks threatening, leukoplakia is a common cause of white tongue that is nothing to worry about if treated expediently. It is a condition caused by an overgrowth of dead skin cells on the surface of the tongue. The appearance of leukoplakia patches may vary from white to grayish-white and often, the tongue feels weird or leathery in texture. This condition is usually painless, but if left untreated it sometimes leads to oral cancer.

To treat leukoplakia, you should visit your doctor or dentist for a thorough examination. They may recommend an oral rinse containing antifungal agents, as well as over-the-counter medications such as fluorides to reduce the risk of developing oral cancer.

Oral Lichen Planus

Oral lichen planus is an inflammatory condition that affects the mucous membranes inside the mouth. It causes white patches on the tongue as well as other areas of the mouth, such as gums and cheeks. These patches may be painful or itchy and affect your ability to taste food properly. In addition to discoloration, oral lichen planus also causes a burning sensation in your mouth.

This cause of white tongue is often treated with topical steroids or other medications to reduce inflammation that are prescribed to you by a dentist or doctor. If left untreated, oral lichen planus causes permanent scarring of the tongue and mouth.

Geographic Tongue

This strangely-named condition is characterized by patches of missing papillae on the surface of the tongue. These red lesions often have a white border, which gives the tongue an overall white appearance. Geographic tongue, also known as benign migratory glossitis, is usually harmless, but it is accompanied by discomfort or a burned tongue sensation in some cases.

Geographic tongue is treated with topical antifungal medication or steroid cream prescribed by a doctor or dentist, but it often resolves on its own.

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush, also known as candidiasis, is a fungal infection that causes white patches on the tongue. This condition is most common in infants and those with weakened immune systems, but it also occurs elsewhere. It is caused by an overgrowth of the yeast-like fungus Candida albicans.

Oral thrush is usually treated with prescribed antifungal medications like nystatin or clotrimazole.


Perhaps the most serious cause of white tongue, syphilis is an infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It is usually spread through sexual contact and causes a variety of symptoms, including white patches on the tongue.

Syphilis is usually treated with antibiotics prescribed by a medical professional. It is important to get medical attention if you think you may have contracted syphilis, as it causes serious health problems if left untreated, such as organ damage and even death.

White Tongue Home Remedies

While the serious causes of white tongue mentioned above should be addressed by medical professionals, most cases are easily fixed at home through changes in your routine. Here are some of the most common and helpful home remedies for white tongue.


Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help to keep the balance of good and bad bacteria in your body. Taking probiotics reduces the amount of yeast present on your tongue, which is often a cause of white tongue. Probiotics also help to improve digestion and prevent inflammation, both of which are linked to white tongue.

Probiotics are found in supplements, as well as in certain fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt.

Baking Soda Scrub

A baking soda scrub helps reduce the buildup of bacteria and debris on your tongue, both of which contribute to white tongue, while also neutralizing the bad odors in your mouth caused by white tongue.

To make a baking soda scrub, mix ¼ teaspoon of baking soda with enough water to form a paste. Use this paste to gently scrub your tongue for up to two minutes before rinsing it off with warm water. This scrub may be done twice daily.

Raw Garlic

Raw garlic is also used to kill the oral bacteria that cause white tongue. Simply chew a few cloves of garlic thoroughly and then rinse your mouth with warm water. While it may make your breath smell, it’s a great natural remedy for white tongue that costs very little.

Avoiding Sugary Foods And Drinks

Sugar is found in many foods today as a substitute for the flavor that comes from fat, but it is incredibly detrimental to your oral health. If you’re suffering from white tongue, try avoiding sugary foods and drinks as much as possible. This includes candy, soda, and other sweetened items like cake, as you will be consuming enough sugar hidden in your diet without these items.

Obviously, sugary food is fine in moderation; we all deserve a treat now and then. But without added sugar, your tongue will begin to heal naturally and the white coating may disappear.

Tongue Scraping

While uncommon, some people scrape their tongues on a daily basis and find it helpful for removing unwanted food or debris stuck on the tongue, which is precisely what causes white tongue (and even another condition called black tongue!).

Scraping is done with a metal or plastic tongue scraper, and it gently removes any dead skin cells that may be causing white tongue. It’s important to use gentle pressure, as scraping too hard leads to irritation or even cuts on your tongue.

Drinking More Water (Up To Eight Glasses A Day)

We are constantly buying new water bottles to encourage ourselves to drink more water, but for some reason, it's hard to reach the daily quota of eight glasses a day.

White tongue might be the best motivator to get hydrated. Water helps to flush out toxins and bacteria from your mouth, which helps prevent white tongue. It's a great and easy way to combat white tongue, plus it will make you more healthy overall.

Brushing Your Teeth Using A Soft Toothbrush

Brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush helps remove the build-up of bacteria and other microorganisms that accumulate on the surface of your tongue, reducing the occurrence of white tongue.

The toothbrush you're currently using may not be soft enough, so look for one with extra-soft bristles. Soft bristles are gentler on your tongue and less likely to cause irritation, which makes them perfect for helping with white tongue without irritating your mouth.

Using A Mild Fluoride Toothpaste

Toothpaste is helpful in fighting cavities and plaque in your teeth, but it is also an effective weapon against white tongue. Using mild fluoride toothpaste helps remove the bacteria and debris that often cause or worsen the condition. You should use mild fluoride toothpaste because stronger versions dry out the mouth and make your tongue more prone to infection.

Using A Fluoride Mouthwash

Mouthwashes are also effective against white tongue. Using a fluoride-based mouthwash helps remove bacteria, fungi, and debris from the tongue. Fluoride mouthwashes also reduce inflammation and irritation of the tongue.

It is best to use an alcohol-free oral rinse since alcohol has been known to irritate mucus membranes. Rinsing with salt water or baking soda also helps clear away any built-up debris on the tongue surface.

Develop An Oral Health Routine

Many common daily oral health practices, like brushing twice a day and using mouthwash, are a part of getting your tongue back to normal. So why not make them a part of your own health regimen?

Clean your tongue at least once a day to remove the bacteria and food particles that are causing the discoloration. You should also brush your teeth twice daily, floss your teeth daily, and use mouthwash regularly. All of these habits help reduce the amount of bacteria buildup in your mouth, which will eventually lead to healthy-looking tongue and keep the rest of your mouth healthy and clean.

Using A Straw For Cold Drinks

White tongue is sometimes an indicator of sensitivity to temperature. To avoid this issue, try drinking cold drinks through a straw instead of directly from a glass. This will keep the liquid away from your tongue, reducing any sensitivity or irritation. According to the NHS, you should avoid hot food and drink, as well as acidic, salty, and spicy foods to prevent irritation.

Taking Over-The-Counter Painkillers

White tongue may be painful, and, if so, it may be a good idea to take painkillers like ibuprofen. Painkillers help reduce the discomfort and inflammation associated with white tongue. Over-the-counter painkillers are not a cure for white tongue, but they help make the condition more manageable in the short term.

How Can I Prevent White Tongue?

Good oral hygiene is a great way to prevent any diseases of the mouth and tongue, including white tongue. Brushing your teeth and tongue twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, flossing at least once per day, and using a mouthwash regularly helps to keep the mouth clean and reduce the risk of plaque buildup that leads to white tongue.

You should also avoid smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, sugary drinks, acidic foods and beverages, spicy foods or any other irritants that could cause dryness or inflammation in the mouth. Additionally, try to drink plenty of water throughout the day, as this will help keep your mouth moist which reduces bacteria growth on the surface of the tongue.

Should I See A Doctor If My Tongue Appears White?

It's always a good idea to see your doctor if you notice any changes in the color of your tongue or if it starts to hurt. White tongue may be a sign of an underlying condition that needs medical attention.

If you cannot see a doctor right away, make sure to practice good oral hygiene and avoid any habits that could further irritate your tongue. Your condition could go away from these home remedies, but if the whiteness persists, you should definitely see a medical professional.

Who Should I See If I (Or My Child) Have A White Tongue?

It's best to see a medical professional, like a doctor, dentist or orthodontist if you (or your child) have a white tongue. This helps ensure that the condition is treated appropriately and any underlying cause is identified. As stated above, white tongue may be caused by some serious medical conditions, so while it’s most treatable at home, it’s always good to be sure you are treating your white tongue the proper way.

What Is The White Stuff On My Tongue?

The appearance of a white tongue is caused by an accumulation of bacteria and debris on your tongue’s surface. This debris includes dead skin cells, food particles, bacteria, and fungi.

The debris and bacteria get trapped between the bumps on your tongue called “papillae”, and without your intervention, there is no way for them to escape. You do not want to have this bacteria and debris on your tongue, so keep up good oral hygiene and use the practices listed above to get rid of them.

Why Is The Back Of My Tongue White?

Whiteness at the back of your tongue may be caused by a number of factors, including poor oral hygiene, dehydration, excessive smoking or drinking alcohol, and some medications. It also could be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as an infection or thrush. It is pretty much the same causes and treatments as an entirely white tongue, but it is more likely to be thrush than other serious causes.

Why Is My Tongue White In The Morning?

Your tongue may be white in the morning due to a buildup of bacteria and debris during the night. This is easily remedied by brushing your tongue in the morning with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Doing so will help remove any debris that has collected on the surface of your tongue during sleep.

If the whiteness persists throughout the day, then you should start looking into more remedies and talk to a medical professional.

Why Does My Tongue Have A White Coating?

A white coating on the tongue is a common symptom of an oral health condition. It is caused by different conditions, ranging from poor hygiene to more serious medical issues such as fungal or bacterial infections.

When the tongue appears white and furry, it’s usually because bacteria and dead cells have built up on its surface. This happens when someone doesn’t brush their teeth regularly or fails to floss properly, allowing food particles and plaque to remain in the mouth. Poor oral hygiene also allows bacteria to build up in other areas of the mouth, including on the tongue itself.

Why Does My Tongue Have White Spots?

White spots on the tongue indicate an imbalance of bacteria in the mouth. This is known as oral thrush, which is caused by an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida albicans.

The most common symptoms include white patches on the tongue and inner cheeks, redness or soreness in the mouth, difficulty swallowing or speaking, and a burning sensation when eating spicy foods.

Other potential causes for white spots may include dehydration, vitamin deficiency, and poor oral hygiene habits such as not brushing your teeth regularly or using too much sugar in food and drinks, smoking cigarettes, or using smokeless tobacco products.

Another possible cause is herpes on the tongue, usually caused by HSV-1. You may feel swelling or pain in some areas of the tongue, develop sores over those areas, and see white spots that eventually turn into tongue ulcers.

Why Is My Tongue Peeling White Stuff?

Peeling of the tongue, specifically if the color is white, is caused by the breakdown of the small bumps on your tongue called papillae. When these papillae become inflamed or infected, they form a white coating.

This is often seen in people who have poor oral hygiene, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol heavily, suffer from diabetes, or take certain medications that weaken the immune system, all of which cause debris and bacteria to get stuck between the papillae and irritate them, eventually creating a white layer that peels off.

Why Does My Tongue Have White Circles?

White circles on the tongue are an indicator of white tongue. It occurs when the tiny bumps on the surface of your tongue, known as papillae, become overgrown or inflamed and form white patches. These patches range from small spots to large areas that cover most of your tongue. In some cases, it may also cause an unpleasant taste in your mouth or bad breath.

The exact cause of white tongue is often difficult to determine as there are many potential causes ranging from poor oral hygiene habits to certain medical conditions.

Does A White Tongue Mean You're Sick?

A white tongue has many causes and it may or may not be a sign of sickness. It is usually caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, debris, or dead cells that accumulate on the tongue’s surface. This causes a white coating to form and gives the tongue an unappealing appearance.

The good news is that white tongue is generally harmless and easy to treat with some simple lifestyle changes and medical treatments if necessary. If improving your oral hygiene does nothing to help your white tongue, it may be a good idea to consult with a medical professional to see if you have an illness that is causing it.

Is White Tongue Serious?

White tongue is not necessarily a serious sign of illness. It is a harmless and temporary condition in which the tongue appears white due to a buildup of dead skin cells, bacteria, and debris, resulting from poor oral hygiene. However, if it persists for longer than two weeks, it could be an indicator of an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed by a doctor or dentist.

What Deficiency Causes White Tongue?

White tongue may be caused by deficiencies of B vitamins and zinc, among others. A deficiency in these nutrients leads to an increase in bacterial growth on the tongue resulting in white patches that have a thick texture similar to cottage cheese.

This isn’t one of the main causes of white tongue, however, so you should first try improving your oral hygiene, then talk to a medical professional about your potential for a deficiency.

Can Dehydration Cause White Tongue?

Yes, dehydration is one of the leading causes of white tongue. When you don’t drink enough fluids, your body will pull fluid from other areas, including your mouth and throat. This reduces saliva production and makes it easier for bacteria to grow, causing an overgrowth on your tongue that irritates the bumps on your tongue and causes a white appearance.

How Do I Make My Tongue Pink?

Returning your tongue to its natural pink color from a white state is usually done by brushing your tongue with a soft-bristled toothbrush and drinking plenty of water. It’s also important to practice good oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing regularly, to prevent bacteria buildup on the tongue. If these remedies don't help, you should talk to a medical professional about other potential causes of white tongue.

Why Is My Tongue White Even After I Brush It?

This is an indication of a condition called white tongue, which is usually caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, fungi, or dead skin cells on the surface of the tongue. Common signs and symptoms include a white coating on the tongue that may have a bumpy texture, bad breath (halitosis), difficulty tasting food, and a sore throat.

If brushing is not helping, try using a soft-bristled brush, a tongue scraper, and/or mouthwash. If those also fail, talk to a medical professional about your treatment options.

Is White Tongue A Sign Of Infection?

White tongue is not normally a sign of infection, but it may indicate underlying health issues that need to be addressed. You should speak to your doctor if you are concerned about white tongue in order to find out what might be causing it and how best to treat it.

Is White Tongue A Sign Of Diabetes?

White tongue may be caused by a variety of things such as dehydration, smoking, poor oral hygiene, dry mouth due to medications or other medical conditions, or simply eating certain foods like garlic or onions that are harsher on your mouth and tongue. Diabetes, however, is not typically one of these causes. If you believe it may be, you should talk to a medical professional.

What Virus Causes White Tongue?

White tongue is not always caused by a virus, but the virus that is often responsible for it is called Candida albicans, which belongs to a group of fungi known as yeasts.

This type of infection typically occurs when the natural balance of bacteria and yeast in your mouth becomes disrupted due to certain factors such as antibiotics or poor oral hygiene. In addition to causing white patches on the tongue, it also causes redness and swelling in the mouth and throat.

Is White Tongue Related To Stomach Problems?

Stomach problems, such as acid reflux and poor digestion, causes white tongue. This is because the acids produced by these conditions irritate the tongue, leading to a buildup of bacteria or fungi on its surface.

White patches may appear on the tongue due to this irritation, which are treated by lifestyle changes and medications. If you believe stomach problems are causing your white tongue, it is important to speak to your doctor or another healthcare professional.

What Color Is A Healthy Tongue?

A healthy tongue is typically pink in color, with small bumps called papillae that are barely visible to the naked eye. When these papillae become inflamed, they turn white or yellow, creating a condition known as “white tongue” or “yellow tongue”.

If your tongue is an irregular color, you should improve your oral hygiene routine, then discuss with a medical professional about potential causes. An irregular color can be a sign that you have an underlying disease; for example, a purple tongue can be caused by a problem in your cardiovascular system.

Does Stomach Acid Cause White Tongue?

Stomach acid is often associated with white tongue. It is believed that stomach acid causes a layer of bacteria to form on the tongue, leaving it looking white and slightly fuzzy. This layer of bacteria will usually become thicker if the person needs better oral hygiene or should brush their teeth more regularly.

Additionally, certain foods such as dairy products may increase the amount of stomach acid in the mouth, resulting in a thicker layer of bacteria.

Why Is There A White Line On My Tongue?

A white line on the tongue may be caused by a number of things, including food, poor oral hygiene, dehydration, or certain medications. In some cases, it could be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as thrush or leukoplakia, but it is usually harmless. Try drinking more and improving your oral hygiene routine, and if that doesn't improve your tongue's appearance, seek medical advice.


White tongue is a condition that causes discomfort and embarrassment. It is caused by the buildup of bacteria, fungi, or dead skin cells on the surface of your tongue. Treatments for white tongue include drinking plenty of water, using an antibacterial mouthwash, or brushing your tongue with a soft toothbrush.

Prevention methods involve practicing good oral hygiene and reducing your intake of sugary foods and drinks that contribute to the buildup of bacteria in your mouth. With proper treatment and prevention, you will reduce or eliminate white tongue altogether.