White tongue causes, symptoms, and natural home remedies

white tongueIf you ever have ever wondered what it means when your tongue is white, well, we have the answer for you. We are going to explain the causes, symptoms, and natural home remedies for a white tongue coating, which can range in severity.

A white tongue mainly occurs when the surface of the tongue is colonized by bacteria or fungi, and dead cells become trapped in-between the small nodules on the tongue. For the most part, a white tongue is temporary and is rarely a cause for serious concern. There are many different reasons for a white tongue and we will outline these for you in more depth so you can have a better understanding of your tongue’s changing color.

What causes a white tongue?


Here are eight causes of a white tongue ranging in severity.

Leukoplakia: This condition is caused by a high production of cells in the mouth as well as deposits of keratin. White spots can appear on the tongue, gums, and inner mouth. Alcohol consumption and smoking can cause leukoplakia and won’t go away with brushing or scraping of the tongue. Although it is typically not dangerous, a patch can become cancerous.

Dry mouth or xerostomia: When the salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva, the mouth can become dry as a result. Saliva works as a mouthwash, clearing away debris and helping to break down food. Drinking more water is a simple solution for dry mouth. If another condition like Sjögren’s syndrome is the cause of dry mouth, your doctor can prescribe medications and other remedies to promote saliva production.

Oral lichen planus: This condition is caused by the immune system and is a long-term disorder. It can cause sores, discomfort, a burning sensation, and white lacey streaks. In severe cases, an antiseptic mouthwash or an oral steroid is required.

Oral thrush: This is a yeast infection of the mouth and can result in a burning sensation. Oral thrush is common in diabetics, infants, and the elderly, people with iron or vitamin B deficiencies, people on antibiotics, people with a weakened immune system, and individuals who use dentures. Antifungal medication is used to treat oral thrush.

Syphilis: This is a sexually transmitted disease caused by bacteria. Having oral sex with someone who is infected is how syphilis is transmitted. Syphilis is usually treated with antibiotics.

Periodontal disease: Improper oral hygiene can result in periodontal disease. Proper oral hygiene consists of brushing teeth, flossing, and using mouthwash. A bacterial infection can occur in the gums, causing the tongue to appear white. Preventative care is best to avoid periodontal disease.

Debris on tongue: Debris on the tongue can give it its white coating. Using a tongue scraper, you can improve the appearance of the tongue and remove the debris. Other causes of debris on tongue include dry mouth, smoking, poor oral hygiene, fever, a low-fiber diet, and damage to the tongue caused by dental appliances.

More serious causes: More serious causes of a white tongue include HIV/AIDS, mouth cancer, and tongue cancer. If symptoms of a white tongue last longer than two weeks, see your doctor.

Signs and symptoms of white tongue

white tongueA white tongue may appear completely white, spotted white, with lines of white, and can be related to infections or dehydration. The symptoms depend on the cause of white tongue. For example, in oral thrush, the entire tongue will appear white, but in leukoplakia whiteness will appear in patches where some areas of the tongue appear normal and other parts are white.

What causes white spots on tongue?

White spots on the tongue can be harmless or indicate a more serious health condition – it all depends on the location.

White spots on the side of the tongue as well as bumps can indicate a slew of problems including oral cancer, tongue biting, oral thrush, irritation of dental appliances, or tooth infections. To narrow down the cause, be mindful of accompanying symptoms.

White spots on the tip of the tongue can sometimes be painful, small in size, or multiple, all depending on the cause. A common cause for white spots on the tip of the tongue is when you bite your tongue, and the white spots appear as the injury heals. Oral thrush can be one other possible cause. If it’s bumpy, it may be a precancerous spot, too.

White spots on the back of the tongue can result from a number of diseases like swollen circumvallate papillae (taste buds found at the back of your tongue), canker sores, lichen planus, oral thrush, or allergic reactions. It is also common to have spots in the back of your tongue if you have strep throat or other throat infections.

Lastly, white spots under the tongue can be a result of canker sores, body heat (causes very painful large or small white bumps under the tongue), oral lichen planus, mucocele growth, oral cancer, and cold sores among other conditions. Be mindful of accompanying symptoms to determine the cause.

Tips to reduce white coating on tongue

smokingTips to reduce white coating on the tongue include:

  • Beware of other symptoms that accompany the white tongue such as fever, pain, or dehydration signaling you to seek medical attention.
  • Know the difference between white tongue and geographic tongue. In geographic tongue, there are smooth lesions on the tongue, and foods with strong flavors may cause pain or irritation.
  • Identify oral thrush by noticing any burning sensations. Your doctor can prescribe an antifungal for this.
  • Educate yourself on the many conditions resulting in white tongue – but don’t panic, have your doctor take a look if you’re concerned.
  • Make lifestyle changes – stay hydrated, follow proper oral hygiene practices, don’t smoke, reduce alcohol consumption, brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper to remove debris, wash your mouth, and disinfect your mouth with salt water or an antiseptic.

Home remedies to prevent white tongue

There are many home remedies you can utilize in order to prevent and treat a white tongue. Here are some of those home remedies you can try today.

Salt:  You can scrub your tongue with salt using a toothbrush, or you can swish around or gargle salt water.

Probiotics: Probiotics can reduce the risk of fungal and bacterial infections. You can take probiotics in capsule or powder form, or consume foods that naturally have probiotics, for example, yogurt.

Vegetable glycerin: This is effective in combating white tongue brought on by dehydration. Brush your tongue with vegetable glycerin and rinse your mouth when you’re done.

Oil pulling: This is when you swish around olive oil or coconut oil in your mouth for at least 15 minutes, spit it out, and rinse your mouth.

Hydrogen peroxide: Mix one part hydrogen peroxide and two parts water, dip your brush into the mixture, and proceed to brush your tongue and rinse your mouth.

Aloe vera juice: Swish around aloe vera juice, spit it out, then drink aloe vera juice.

Regular brushing: Regular brushing of your teeth, gums, and tongue can prevent a white tongue.

Turmeric: Mix turmeric with lemon juice to make a paste. Scrub the paste on your tongue and rinse your mouth thoroughly.

Baking soda: Mix baking soda with lemon juice to make a paste. Brush your tongue with the paste and rinse your mouth.

Apple: Eating an apple a day can support healthy oral hygiene.

Avoid dehydration: Dehydration is a common, non-threatening cause of white tongue. Staying well hydrated can prevent white tongue due to dehydration.

Quit smoking: Smoking can lead to white tongue, while not smoking can prevent it.


Reduce your alcohol consumption: Alcohol can promote dehydration, which can lead to a white tongue.

Potential complications of white coating on the tongue

sickThe types of complications that can arise depend on the underlying cause of white tongue. Some possible complications associated with a white coating on the tongue include adverse effects from treatment, anxiety and depression, cosmetic disfigurement, spread of infection, tongue or oral cancer, tongue removal due to serious infection, transmission of a sexually transmitted disease, and weight loss.

When to see a doctor for white coating on the tongue?

You should see a doctor for your white tongue if you notice any changes to your tongue, if you experience pain of the tongue, or if the whiteness persists after several weeks. By using home remedies and medical treatments you should be able to rid yourself of the white tongue, but if complications arise see a doctor right away.

Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.



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