White tongue, the main causes

White tongue is a term used to describe any area of ​​the tongue that has a grayish-white coating. This coating may cover the entire tongue or appear as patches.
There are several different causes for the appearance of a white tongue, and each has a specific treatment. A white tongue is usually a harmless symptom, but in rare cases it can indicate a serious condition. In this article, we look at the common causes of a white tongue and home remedies to get rid of this problem.

The main causes of white tongue

The most common cause of white tongue is poor oral hygiene. The small bumps on the tongue, called papillae, can swell and become inflamed if the mouth is not taken care of properly. Many germs, debris, food particles, and dead cells can get stuck between these taste buds. Then the tongue turns white as the particles build up.

Oral and hygiene problems that can lead to a white tongue include:

Dry mouth due to mouth breathing or sleeping with your mouth open
Not brushing or flossing your teeth properly
Not cleaning the tongue
– Drought
Irritation from sharp edges inside the mouth, such as teeth, braces or dentures
Regular consumption of alcohol
Smoking, chewing or dipping tobacco.

Basic oral hygiene is essential for everyone, but some cases cause whiteness of the tongue even in people who take care of their mouth. These include:

Oral lichen planus

Oral lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect the mouth and tongue. It can also affect the lips, the inside of the cheeks, and the gums. Researchers are not sure what causes this condition, but it may be due to an immune response or genetic factors.

Oral symptoms are:

White patches of skin that look like lace
– Ulcers
Pain, including discomfort, aching or a burning sensation
Swelling and redness

treatment or treatment

Oral lichen planus is a chronic condition, and in many cases a doctor monitors it just to make sure the lesions heal properly.
In severe cases, the doctor may prescribe topical or oral corticosteroids.


Irritants such as tobacco and alcohol can lead to leukoplakia. It can also result from inflammatory conditions and irritation from dentures. It can affect all areas of the mouth, including the tongue, cheeks, and gums. Leukoplakia can appear as thick white patches that cannot be scraped off. Sometimes the spots can be red and white. Spots caused by leukoplakia are harmless on their own. In rare cases, leukoplakia can develop into cancer, so it is best to have it diagnosed by a doctor right away.

treatment or treatment

A health care professional should monitor the leukoplakia to make sure it does not get worse. He may recommend reducing the amount of alcohol consumed or quitting smoking.
Sometimes a doctor needs to surgically remove the plaques.

oral thrush

Oral thrush is another condition that can cause the tongue to appear white. Oral thrush is a fungal infection caused by Candida.

Symptoms include:

White or white spots in the mouth and tongue
Unpleasant taste or loss of taste
Pain, especially when eating or drinking
Redness or pain

People with weakened immune systems are more likely to get oral thrush. These include people who have recently taken antibiotics or have undergone chemotherapy. Poor oral hygiene or wearing improper dentures are other risk factors. Use of inhaled corticosteroids to treat asthma can also cause oral thrush. Some conditions, including diabetes and HIV, can increase your risk.

treatment or treatment

Treatment for oral thrush usually includes antifungal medications. These medications are placed inside the mouth for one to two weeks, until the condition clears up. In severe cases, a health care professional may prescribe oral or intravenous antifungal medications.


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause symptoms in many parts of the body, including the mouth.
Symptoms include:

White spots on the tongue
Red and white lesions called sores on the tongue or lips
Strong, raised lesions in the mouth
These symptoms usually appear between 10 and 90 days after a person comes into contact with the bacteria. Sores may go away on their own over time, but the disease may remain in the body and progress without treatment.

treatment or treatment

Syphilis requires medical treatment with the antibiotic penicillin. This antibiotic kills the bacteria that cause the disease. People who are allergic to penicillin can take another type of antibiotic. Reducing irritants in the mouth, such as alcohol and tobacco, can help get rid of white spots.

Other terms

Rare but sometimes serious conditions can cause white spots to appear on the tongue. Oral or tongue cancer can cause whiteness of the tongue. Common causes of these types of cancer are chronic tobacco or alcohol use and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
Underlying chronic inflammatory disorders can also affect the white tongue.

When do you consult a doctor?

Most cases of white tongue go away easily, but this is not always the case. If symptoms do not respond to basic oral care or if they appear at the same time as other symptoms, a doctor should be consulted.

home remedies

Certain home remedies and habits can also help get rid of a white tongue.


Probiotics are another way to affect oral symptoms, such as whiteness of the tongue. Probiotics are strains of bacteria that are beneficial to the digestive system. While much of the probiotic research focuses on improving gut health, probiotics may also be beneficial for the mouth and tongue. A 2017 study indicated that probiotic bacteria can occupy the mouth as well as the intestines. In some cases, these bacteria can help fight off infectious yeast and other strains of bad bacteria. Although the evidence is inconclusive, probiotics can still help balance the environment in the mouth and prevent a white tongue.

baking soda scrub

Adding nutritional baking soda to your toothbrush and rubbing your tongue, teeth, and gums can help reduce the bacteria that cause white tongue.
A study found that mouthwash with baking soda can reduce harmful bacteria that often cause oral infections, such as streptococcus.

raw garlic

Eating garlic can help the body fight infections caused by bacteria and fungi. Garlic has antibacterial and antifungal properties, including the ability to fight candida. You can eat a whole clove of garlic raw every day or chop it up and eat it with a little olive oil.

tongue scraping

Gently scraping the tongue back and forth can help reduce and remove bacteria and debris that settle in the mouth. Many companies make specific tongue scrapers that can be purchased online. However, the edge of a spoon can be used just as easily.


While it is not always possible to avoid having a white tongue, basic oral hygiene can help prevent many conditions. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Many people also benefit from using a tongue scraper daily or brushing their tongue with a toothbrush. Also, some lifestyle choices can sometimes help prevent a white tongue. Avoiding tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, as well as following a varied and nutritious diet, can help. A visit to the dentist every 6 months for a check-up helps keep your mouth as clean as possible. People should report any worrisome symptoms to their doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.


The overall outlook for the white tongue is very good. In many cases, it is harmless, although it can be painful to see. Symptoms do not always respond immediately to improved hygiene or lifestyle, but anyone with a white tongue is advised to improve their oral health.
In rare cases, a white tongue is a sign of a serious underlying condition. Following your doctor’s treatment plan is the best way to relieve symptoms.

* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In any case, the information provided cannot replace the advice of a health professional.

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