Are you worried about your White Tongue?
There are a wide variety of causes for the appearance of white patches on your tongue. It could be something simple and easy to fix such as poor oral hygiene, or a consequence of bad, unhealthy habits like smoking or excessive alcohol use. Sometimes it may be a symptom of a condition that may require additional treatment or monitoring, such as oral thrush, geographic tongue, Leucoplakia, oral lichen planus, while in other cases it could be a sign of a serious condition like cancer. It is worth noting that if you are taking medications like anti-biotics, it is possible that your tongue discolouration is caused by an oral yeast infection, a common side effect of this medication.
Whilst unpleasant, white patches appearing on your tongue are usually not a sign of a serious condition and the symptoms can often be managed at home with some basic treatments or preventative measures. Making some simple and easy changes to your lifestyle may be all that is required to improve the condition of your tongue and help prevent reoccurrence of white tongue. Look at the list below to see advice on what you should or should not do to improve your symptoms.
- Try using a softer toothbrush to avoid irritating sore areas
- If possible, you can brush the affected areas of your tongue with a soft toothbrush or scraper tool
- Temporarily use straws to drink cold drinks
- If necessary, you may feel more comfortable if you take a painkiller, like paracetamol or ibuprofen
- Avoid smoking
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid eating spicy acidic or highly salted foods which may irritate inflamed areas of the tongue
- Avoid using a toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulphate
- Clean your teeth twice daily to maintain good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly
While white tongue can often be harmless or temporary, if it is affecting your daily life or accompanied by any additional symptoms it may be worth consulting a doctor who can advise you further on an appropriate course of treatment. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek a medical opinion.
- You have white tongue and other unexplained additional symptoms
- You have tried to solve the problem at home, and it has not worked
- You have had the problem for more than a few weeks without any improvement
- Alcohol use (excessive)
- Dry mouth
- Geographic tongue
- Immunosuppression caused by such diseases as HIV/AIDS
- Low roughage diet (eating mostly soft or mashed foods)
- Mechanical irritation from sharp tooth edges or dental appliances
- Mouth breathing
- Mouth cancer
- Oral lichen planus
- Oral thrush
- Poor oral hygiene
- Smoking or other oral tobacco use
- Tongue cancer
- Use of certain medications