What Is White Tongue?

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  • Written By: Valerie Goldberg
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 14 February 2019
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White tongue refers to instances when a person's tongue is coated with a thin, white film. Dead skin cells or bacteria on the surface of the tongue can cause it to look white. An individual might have white tongue because of a variety of things, including excessive dry mouth, an oral yeast infection or the early stages of oral cancer.

Chronic dry mouth is one of the most common causes of white tongue. Dehydration is often the cause of dry mouth. People should drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid becoming dehydrated. If a person is taking antibiotics, plays sports frequently or has spent a night drinking multiple alcoholic beverages, he or she might be more at risk for becoming dehydrated.

Bad oral hygiene can also lead to dry mouth. People should be sure to brush their teeth multiple times a day. Flossing and using mouthwash also promotes good oral care. If a person is prone to this condition, lightly brushing the tongue itself can be beneficial.

Another common cause of this condition is an oral yeast infection, also known as thrush. Just like a vaginal yeast infection, thrush is caused by a fungus called candida. White tongue caused by oral thrush will be thicker and more painful than the kind caused by dehydration.


Denture wearers, people taking inhaled asthma medications or sufferers of chronic immune system disorders are among those at high risk for developing an oral yeast infection. A doctor can prescribe an anti-fungal mouth rinse to cure the candida. If an individual knows that he or she is prone to thrush, consuming yogurt and garlic on a regular basis can help prevent re-occurrence, because these foods contain natural yeast-fighting properties.

One of the more rare but potentially most dangerous causes of white tongue is leukoplakia. Leukoplakia causes patches of white spots to appear on the tongue, roof of the mouth and gums. Elderly individuals or those who have compromised immune systems are at a higher risk for developing leukoplakia than others.

Leukoplakia should be taken seriously because it might be an early sign of oral cancer. Smokers or people who have had cancer in other parts of the body should seek medical attention as soon as possible if they suspect that they have leukoplakia. A dentist or doctor can do a biopsy to determine whether cancer cells are present. The earlier cancer is caught, the greater chance a patient has for recovery.


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Post 9

My husband is on dialysis three times per week for four hours each session. His kidneys have failed, so he is on a very limited fluid restriction. How can he avoid this dryness and white tongue?

Post 8

During the day, I've got dry mouth and at night, and am finding it very hard to breathe or swallow at times, which is making it difficult to keep a normal routine.

Post 7

I take Xanax a few times a week, which causes dry mouth, and I sleep with a night guard that holds my mouth open enough that I wake during the night aware of dry mouth. I also drool horribly because of the night guard. I hate it when my tongue is coated because I don't want people to notice it and think I'm ill or unclean!

Post 6

I don't think I have had a white coating on my tongue, or if I have, it wasn't thick enough that I noticed. I do try to drink a fair amount of water, although I know I need to drink more.

I also try to brush my teeth and tongue twice a day. I probably really do not need to brush my tongue, but I do anyway. Luckily I do not have a strong gag-reflex, so I can do brush my tongue pretty fast.

I actually feel as though I have an over-production of saliva, instead of an under-production. This may be why I do not get a dry mouth or white tongue.

I also try to

eat yogurt a few times a week, because it has so many positive benefits and it tastes good too. I love Greek yogurt. Does this yogurt have the same benefits as regular yogurt?

I have noticed white spots at the back of my throat, is this commonly a bacterial infection also?

Post 5

After taking some antibiotics for a prolonged period of time, I noticed that I had a white tongue. I was a little concerned about this until I read that this is a common problem when taking this kind of medication.

The worst thing about this, is that it causes bad breath too. I did realize that I wasn't drinking enough water, and saw a big difference when I began drinking more water while I was still taking the medication.

Once I quit taking the antibiotics, it took a few days, but I didn't have a white tongue anymore.

Post 4

I always notice white on my tongue in the morning, and then began brushing my tongue when I was brushing my teeth.

I know some people do this every time they brush their teeth, but it took me awhile to get used to it. I have such a strong gag reflux, that I have to do it very slowly and gently.

If I do this on a regular basis, I don't have as much white on my tongue as I did before. My mouth is also very dry in the morning, and this might the biggest reason I have a white tongue when I wake up.

Post 3

I used to get white tongue a lot when I would first wake up. I would have a think white film that covered the top of my tongue. Honestly, it kind of looked like spoiled milk.

Then I began to brush my teeth before I went to sleep and the problem went away. I was never all that troubled by the white tongue, but it was obviously a symptom of my poor oral hygiene. Now that its gone I know that I am taking better care of my teeth.

Post 2

I actually panicked when I found a white coating on my tongue. It looked pretty nasty and I was worried that I had contracted some terrible disease.

Apparently I was just suffering one of the effects of dry mouth and increasing my fluid intake really helped a lot. I used to never drink water but now I always carry a bottle around with me.

It's amazing what will go wrong with your body if you aren't taking in enough water. On top of the white tongue I also found that my skin was really dry and that I couldn't go to the bathroom very well. I guess the old 8 glasses of water thing to keep you healthy has more truth to it than not.

Post 1

I used to suffer from a white tongue coating because of the inhaled asthma medications I have to take. The oral thrush was quite embarrassing and I hated the feeling it left in my mouth.

My doctor told me that a white coated tongue was easily fixed and he prescribed me some mouth wash to get rid of it. It took a few days before things were back to normal.

While I still have to take my asthma medication I make sure to eat plenty of garlic in my food and it seems to keep it at bay. If you are going this route, make sure you carry plenty of breath mints.

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