If Your Tongue Turns White, It Could Be A Sign Of This

Have you ever looked in the mirror only to be greeted by your typically pink tongue appearing white? While it may look alarming at first glance, this symptom is quite common and fittingly known as "white tongue," according to the Mayo Clinic. You may notice a thin coat of white film on your tongue that shows up in patches, confined to one area, or even along the entire tongue. 

White tongue is typically caused by "bacteria, debris (like food and sugar) and dead cells [that] get trapped between the papillae on the surface of your tongue," Cleveland Clinic explained. The small bumps, or papillae, can then become inflamed, leading to white tongue.

If you've noticed your own tongue turning white, it may simply mean you need to up your game with oral hygiene. You can do that by brushing your teeth more often, using mouthwash, and flossing. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste twice a day is key in healthy oral hygiene, along with flossing and using mouthwash. And, while spending a day off at the dentist may not sound like the most fun, you should make an appointment every six months for a routine cleaning.

When to be concerned

You likely won't need to make a doctor's appointment over white tongue, but if a couple of weeks pass by and nothing has changed, reach out to your doctor, Healthline advises. This is especially true if you begin to experience other symptoms, like pain or trouble eating. White tongue can be a symptom of serious underlying health conditions, such as oral thrush, syphilis, or cancer, so it's vital to check up with your doctor if you don't notice improvement.

Along with practicing better oral hygiene, Medical News Today recommends avoiding alcohol and chewing, dipping, or smoking tobacco. While white tongue can't be fully prevented, these lifestyle choices can actually give you the condition. As always, be sure to drink plenty of water as it can lessen the amount of debris and bacteria inside the mouth. And, if you can't stand to see your tongue a different color, you can use a tongue scraper to remove the coating (via Healthline).