Your tongue changing from pink to white can be alarming, but it’s not an uncommon occurrence.
The human tongue is made up of little, sensory hair known as the papillae. When dirt, bacteria, and dead cells accumulate on the tongue, it causes the papillae to swell. The inflammation is responsible for the white film formed on the surface of the tongue. This piece explains everything you need to know about white tongue.
9 possible reasons for white tongue
Many factors could be responsible for the change in your tongue’s color. Some of them are:
When the body does not get enough water, it slows down the production of saliva. Low levels of saliva in the mouth will cause the surface of the tongue to become rough and change color.
The digestive system also influences the color of the tongue. Studies have shown that the gut area—which is made up of the stomach and intestine—is very important to a person’s overall health.
The build-up of the natural bacteria found in the stomach wall and the intestine could lead to acid reflux, causing the stomach’s acid to travel up the esophagus and reach the tongue. If it frequently happens, the acid will change the color of the tongue.
A liver problem
When the liver is unable to break down fat, the bacteria in the stomach grows, forming candida bacteria or as it’s commonly known—a yeast infection.
Internal yeast infection—when left untreated—can grow to cover the surface of your tongue and gum.
Because you are a smoker
Smoking causes plaque and tar to grow on the mouth’s surface. The tar and plaque build-up causes leukoplakia-which is the formation of thick white patches—to form on the tongue.
Alcohol consumption may be the cause of the problem
When consumed in high quantities regularly, alcohol causes thick, white patches (sometimes yellow) to grow on the tongue’s surface.
A lack of vitamins
A white tongue can be a sign that your body is lacking vitamins, especially vitamin B12 which is used by the body to produce blood.
When the body does not get sufficient vitamin B12, it can’t properly produce blood, which could, in turn, make the surface of your tongue white.
May be a signal of an infection
A severe case could be caused by bacterial infections like syphilis.
When left untreated, syphilis can cause white patches known as syphilitic leukoplakia to form on your tongue’s surface.
A diet that is too fatty or too spicy
Spicy and fatty food—when eaten in excess—slows down digestion, trigger acid reflux, and disrupt the pH balance in your stomach.
Insufficient oral hygiene
Your oral hygiene is very important. Not brushing your tongue properly will cause dirt and bacteria to grow inhibited in your mouth.
What to do when you have a white tongue?
Many factors could make your tongue change color, but you should not panic. In most cases, the white fades after some time.
To speed things up, use:
Consult a doctor if the onset is sudden
You should also visit the doctor if you experience pain or burning. Seeing open sores in your mouth calls for a doctor intervention also. Finally, if the color change is accompanied by other symptoms, like a fever, weight loss, or skin rash don’t hesitate to inform a health worker.
Try natural remedies, if the cause is hygiene
Some examples of natural remedies are:
- Probiotics: Taking probiotics will balance the healthy bacteria in the stomach.
- Baking soda: Add baking soda to your oral routine as baking soda exfoliates the tongue and removes residues left over from brushing.
- Essential oils: Simply leave a tablespoon of coconut oil, aloe vera, or olive oil in your mouth for 15 minutes. After 15minues, spit out the oil and rinse your mouth with warm water.
You can also gargle sea salt mixed with water 5-10mins daily for at least a week.
How to avoid the appearance of a white tongue?
Practicing good oral hygiene is key to avoid a white tongue. Brushing your tongue properly with a soft-bristled brush and a toothpaste made with fluoride will prevent the bacteria from growing on your tongue.
Adding a fluoride mouthwash, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, and visiting your dentist every six months will also help prevent a white tongue.