White Tongue: Causes
HEALTH, 11 Jul 2016
White tongue is the result of an overgrowth and swelling of the fingerlike projections (papillae) on the surface of your tongue. The appearance of a white coating is caused by debris, bacteria and dead cells getting lodged between the enlarged and sometimes inflamed papillae.
Causes of papillae hypertrophy or inflammation include, for example:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Dry mouth
- Congenital heart disease in adults
- Smoking or other oral tobacco use
- Alcohol use
- Mouth breathing
- Low roughage diet — eating mostly soft or mashed foods
- Mechanical irritation from sharp tooth edges or dental appliances
Examples of conditions associated with white patches or other discolorations of your tongue include:
- Use of certain medications, such as prolonged use of antibiotics that may bring on an oral yeast infection
- Oral thrush
- Geographic tongue
- Oral lichen planus
- Mouth cancer
- Tongue cancer
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
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