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, irritation, 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. These yeast infections may be seen in many different circumstances but are common in people with immune suppression due to conditions such as cancer or HIV infection. 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 or other tobacco use, 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. Geographic tongue is a condition in which some areas of the tongue lack the papillae normally present on the tongue surface, resulting in irregular red patches on the tongue with a white border.
Other causes of white tongue
- Geographic Tongue
- Prolonged Mouth Breathing
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Causes of White Tongue
Cancer is a disease caused by an abnormal growth of cells, also called malignancy. It is a group of 100 different diseases, and is not contagious. Cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, a treatment of drugs that destroy cancer cells.
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
Dry mouth is a common side effect of many prescription and non-prescription drugs and certain medical conditions. Symptoms of dry mouth include a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth, frequent thirst, sores in the mouth; sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth, cracked lips, a dry feeling in the throat, a burning or tingling sensation in the mouth, and a dry, red, raw tongue.
Is a Yeast Infection Contagious?
Yeast are a fungi that has many types. A type of yeast that can cause infection in humans is called Candida. Candida can infect the mouth, vagina, penis, or other areas of the body. Symptoms of yeast infections depend on the area infected, however, may include itching, bumps on the skin, a reddish rash, or patches of skin that ooze a clear or yellowy liquid. Most yeast infections are not contagious even though they are caused by a fungus.
Leukoplakia is a white or gray patch that develops on the tongue or inside the cheek. Causes of Leukoplakia may include irritation from rough teeth fillings or crowns, chronic smoking, sun exposure to the lips, or HIV or AIDS.
Lichen planus is a common skin disease that features small, itchy pink or purple spots on the arms or legs. the abnormal areas on the skin in lichen planus are typically flat-topped (hence the term planus), itchy, and frequently have a polygonal or angular shape.
Scarlet Fever (Scarlatina)
Scarlet fever, a bacterial infection caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria, causes symptoms and signs such as fever, rash with a sandpaper-like texture, and sore throat. Oral penicillin is the standard treatment for scarlet fever, or scarlatina.
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Thrush (Oral Candidiasis)
Thrush is an infection of the mouth caused by the Candida fungus. Symptoms of thrush include pain or difficulty swallowing, a feeling that food gets stuck in the throat, and fever.
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 and throat. Oral thrush and yeast infections are treated orally or topically with an antifungal antibiotic called nystatin.
There are a variety of diseases and conditions that can cause tongue problems, discoloration, and soreness. Though most tongue problems are not serious. Conditions such as leukoplakia, oral thrush, and oral lichen planus may cause a white tongue while Kawasaki syndrome, scarlet fever, and geographic tongue may cause the tongue to appear red. A black hairy tongue may be caused by overgrown papillae on the tongue. Canker sores, smoking, and trauma may cause soreness of the tongue.
Examples of Medications for White Tongue
Oral Health Resources
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