Causes of White Tongue:
Many patients I️ see have some sort of visible white coating on their tongue. Some notice it, while others don’t really pay attention to it. Some have a thicker coat than others. Most patients who experience some form of it often complain of bad breath. If you do have a white coat on your tongue, it’s important to treat or at least know why it’s there.
There are several reasons for this white coating. If you have a white coat you will most likely fall into one of these categories below. While there are some scary words in these categories don’t be alarmed! Most of the time it’s within the first 3 or 4. The others are rare, but should still be ruled out. We will describe the first 4, and explain possible treatments for each.
- Poor oral hygiene
- Dry mouth/Dehydration
- Irritation from sharp edges on teeth or appliances.
- Smoking or tobacco use
- Alcohol Use
- Congenital Heart Disease
- Candida; Yeast Infection
- Low roughage diet. Eating mostly soft foods.
- Lichen Planus
- Geographic Tongue
- Mouth Cancer
Poor Oral Hygiene:
Most of the time, white tongue is due to the fact that plaque gets in between small extensions on the tongue called papillae. Plaque is formed from a gathering a of bacteria that colonize to form a protective home. We sill haven’t found a good substitute for good old brushing and flossing. The reason for that is because we need that mechanical work of the floss and toothbrush to remove the plaque.
The best way to treat a plaque coated tongue is to use the mechanical action of a tongue scraper and lightly remove the plaque. Do this daily for about 2 weeks and you will notice a difference.
The mouth is in constant need of hydration. Saliva is a natural lubricant that maintains allow acidity and protects your mouth from plaque forming. Lack of saliva allows for plaque to quickly form on your tongue.
To treat dry mouth a lubricant such as Biotene will help. Ask your doctor if the meds you are currently taking cause dry mouth and if any substitutes are available. If these changes do not work there are medications that help stimulate saliva production.
A daily regimen of brushing morning and night, scraping the tongue, and flossing is very important in dry mouth cases. This is due to the lack of salivary protection.
Irritation From Sharp Edges of Teeth:
These marks usually show up on the sides of the tongue (where the teeth are). Larger tongues tend to impose on the biting surfaces of teeth. The constant trauma to the area makes a white line on the side of the tongue.
There isn’t much you can do as far as treatment for this issue. If you’re experiencing pain from this, your dentist may adjust your bite.
Smoking or Tabaco Use:
Smoking will cause the coating of the tongue (normally consisting of a thin layer of dead cells) to increase in dead cell count. An accumulation of dead cells will show up as a thick white/yellowish layer on the tongue. A severe accumulation will present as a black hairy layer.
Smoking cessation along with antibacterial rinses will help decrease the dead cell count and normalize the tongue’s superficial layer.
It is important to come in and see us at Tri City Dental Care to make sure we can detect any issues early on and prevent further damage to the tongue.
-Dr. Antonio Lopez-Ibarra