White Tongue

Symptom Checker: Symptoms & Signs Index

Medical Author:

Whitening of the tongue can occur when there is a buildup or coating of bacteria and debris on the surface of the tongue due to mild dehydration, illness (when there is less use of the tongue for talking or eating), or dryness of the mouth. A whitening of the top layer of the tongue or the presence of white spots or patches on the tongue can also be seen with infection or chronic inflammation of the surface of the tongue. Certain oral infections, notably Candida yeast infections (known as oral thrush), are characterized by a white tongue. In contrast, some infections, like scarlet fever, can produce red spots on the tongue. Inflammation and whitening of the tongue can also occur due to dryness or environmental irritants such as smoking, and may be associated with bad breath. Inflammation of the tongue is known as glossitis. Some white patches on the tongue, known as leukoplakia, can be precancerous lesions.

Patients may experience the related symptoms of Tongue Swelling, Loss Of Taste, and/or Sore Tongue.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/23/2014

Health concern on your mind? Visit the Symptom Checker.

REFERENCE:

Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.

Causes of White Tongue
    • Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) Dry mouth is a common side effect of many prescription and non-prescription drugs and certain medical conditions. Symptoms of dry...learn more »
      In This Article
      Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) Article
      • What is dry mouth?
      • How common is dry mouth?
      • What causes dry mouth?
      • What are the signs and symptoms of dry mouth?
      • What is the treatment for dry mouth?
      • Can dry mouth be prevented?
    • Leukoplakia Leukoplakia is a white or gray patch that develops on the tongue or inside the cheek. Causes of Leukoplakia may include...learn more »
      In This Article
      Leukoplakia Article
      • Introduction
      • What causes Leukoplakia?
      • What are the symptoms?
      • How is Leukoplakia diagnosed?
      • How is Leukoplakia treated?
    • Lichen Planus Lichen planus is a common skin disease that features small, itchy pink or purple spots on the arms or legs. the abnormal areas on...learn more »
      In This Article
      Lichen Planus Article
      • Lichen planus facts
      • What is lichen planus?
      • What causes lichen planus?
      • How is the rash of lichen planus different from that of most other common rashes?
      • What are the symptoms and signs of lichen planus?
      • What does lichen planus look like?
      • How is lichen planus diagnosed?
      • What is the treatment for lichen planus?
      • What is the long-term prognosis of lichen planus?
    • Smoking (How to Quit Smoking) Smoking is an addiction. More than 430,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. from smoking related illnesses. Secondhand smoke or...learn more »
      In This Article
      Smoking (How to Quit Smoking) Article
      • Smoking and quitting smoking facts
      • What problems are caused by smoking?
      • What is addictive disease and why is smoking considered addictive?
      • What are the signs of cigarette addiction?
      • Why should someone quit smoking?
      • What are the steps in quitting?
      • Getting ready to quit smoking
      • On the day you quit smoking
      • Staying quit
      • What methods can help a person quit smoking?
      • Behavioral modification and self-help literature to quit smoking
      • Nicotine replacement therapy to quit smoking
      • What prescription products are available for smoking cessation?
      • How are nicotine-containing products used safely?
      • What is in the future for smoking?
    • Thrush Thrush is an infection of the mouth caused by the candida fungus. Symptoms of Thrush include pain or difficulty swallowing, a...learn more »
    • Thrush and Other Yeast Infections in Children Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of a type of fungus called Candida. Oral thrush is a yeast infection of the mouth...learn more »
      In This Article
      Thrush and Other Yeast Infections in Children Article
      • What are yeast infections?
      • Why do yeast sometimes cause symptoms?
      • How do babies get yeast infections?
      • What is oral thrush? What are symptoms of oral thrush?
      • How do children (and adults) acquire thrush?
      • How does yeast affect diaper rash?
      • Can thumb sucking cause problems with yeast?
      • Can a nursing mother acquire yeast infections from her infant?
      • How are thrush and other yeast infections treated?
      • Should a child with yeast infection be kept out of child care?
      • Are there other names for yeast infection?
Other Causes of White Tongue
  • Geographic Tongue
  • Glossitis
  • Prolonged Mouth Breathing
Examples of Medications for White Tongue



STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!