You may have been startled at one time or another at the appearance of your tongue being white in colour. This is typically harmless and can occur either on the entire top of the tongue or just a portion. In rare occurrences, a white tongue can be caused by something more serious. It is essential to monitor signs and symptoms if you are experiencing a white tongue and see your dentist if there is no improvement after a couple of weeks.
Typical Causes of a White Tongue
A common cause of a white tongue is poor oral hygiene. This occurs when plaque and bacteria form on the tongue, giving it a coated appearance. This white coating is easily cleanable with a toothbrush or tongue scraper. Other causes of a white tongue are dry mouth, dehydrating, breathing through the mouth at night, eating a diet high in carbohydrates, trauma to the tongue such as biting it, smoking and drinking alcohol.
Less Common White Tongue Causes
Oral Thrush – This is an oral infection caused by a build-up of candida yeast. Those with a weakened immune system are more at risk of oral thrush, such as people with diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or certain deficiencies such as iron or vitamin B. Additionally; oral thrush can be caused by the use of dentures, in particular, if they are not removed nightly or cleaned properly.
Leukoplakia – Consists of white patches that form on the mouth’s soft tissue, such as the cheeks, gums, floor of the mouth and tongue. The patches are typically thickened tissue and can form into oral cancer.
Oral Lichen Planus – caused by an issue with the immune system, lichen planus cause appear as white spots that form on the tongue. This is usually coupled with mouth sores and bleeding gums.
Syphilis – This is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause oral sores. If left untreated, syphilis can cause leukoplakia spots on the tongue called syphilis leukoplakia.
When to See a Dentist
It is essential to see a dentist if the white coating stays persistently on the tongue after a couple of weeks, even with cleaning it. In addition, if there is a burning sensation, pain, trouble chewing or talking, open sores, fever or weight loss.