It’s normal to wake up every day to a white coating on your tongue. The mouth gets dry due to a decrease in the production of saliva during the night, which is typical. However, sometimes, the white is more than usual and seems to appear out of nowhere. That’s when you think of the “why” and “how to get rid of white tongue?”
Most of us don’t stick our tongues out, look in the mirror, and check if they are healthy. Although often overlooked, this organ can tell a lot about a person’s health. And since a healthy tongue should be pink, the white can raise some alarm bells. To find the right treatment for a white tongue, first, you need to understand what it is and what causes it.
What Is A White Tongue?
A white tongue is when your (predominantly pink) tongue has patches or spots of white in it, or its entire surface has become white. They may build up over time or just appear all of a sudden.
In most cases, it is nothing to worry about and resolves on its own. But because of the entrapment of bacteria, dead cells, and food residue, a person with a white coated tongue usually has bad breath as well. And it may affect the taste if it’s a health condition.
The tongue coating is not the same for every person. Its colour and thickness vary depending on the oral health of a person. For instance, those suffering from gum disease have a thicker coating of white because of the entrapment of the white blood cells on the tongue (produced in response to the infection).
So, the answer to “how to get rid of white tongue?” is not that simple, which is why you first need to understand its causes.
What Causes White Tongue Due To Non-Health Conditions
First, let’s take a look at the causes that don’t necessarily result from a health condition. These result in a white tongue due to the swelling and, in some cases, inflammation of the papilla (tiny bumps) of the tongue. Their understanding is important before learning how to get rid of white tongue.
Poor Oral Hygiene
One of the most common causes of white tongue is poor oral health. Since the tongue isn’t cleaned properly, food residue, cells, microorganisms, and dirt in the mouth get trapped in the papillae, making them swollen and enlarged. As a result, it is even easier for them to trap more particles.
It is more common than you think. Many people breathe through their mouths, especially when they’re sleeping. This results in a decrease in the production of saliva, resulting in a dry mouth and white tongue.
Smoking & Alcohol
Similarly, smoking and drinking alcohol decrease saliva production in the mouth, which leads to the development of a white tongue. Smoking can also cause certain oral health conditions of which white tongue is just one symptom.
Another common cause of white tongue is the over-consumption of sugary foods and/or dehydration (not drinking enough water). This creates an environment for the accumulation of bacteria.
Moreover, food high in carbs also increases the risk of oral thrush, which can also give one a white tongue. So, one of the answers to how to get rid of white tongue is refraining from excessive consumption of carbs.
Many factors come together to increase the incidence of white tongue in older people. One may be the poor upkeep of oral hygiene. Second, since older people eat more soft foods, the decreased movement of the tongue and reduced saliva make a white tongue more common among them.
Lastly, a greater intake of medications can also leave the mouth dry, resulting in the same problem.
What Causes White Tongue Due To Health Conditions
These are the oral health conditions that result in many problems, one of which is the white tongue.
It is a fungal infection commonly caused by Candida albicans. It can result in the formation of white/grey lesions on the inside lining of the cheeks, gums, roof of the mouth, and tongue. Oral thrush can be transmitted to other people by kissing, although it is rare.
It is caused by interference with the normal functioning of the immune system, as happens in HIV/AIDS or patients taking antibiotics or steroids.
Even the inhalation of steroids can develop this condition, which is why patients are recommended to drink water after taking their medicine. Other than that, it is also common in people with diabetes or those suffering from nutritional deficiencies.
The condition is more common in newborns (1 month to less than 6 months old) and the elderly. The reason why it develops in infants is that their immune system hasn’t fully developed yet, making them vulnerable to this infection.
In older individuals, the most common reason for its development is the intake of antibiotics and subsequent weakening of the immune system.
It’s another oral health condition that results in the formation of a raised plaque on the tongue. Unlike oral thrush, this cannot be scraped off.
The exact cause of this condition isn’t known, but smoking or chewing tobacco products, drinking alcohol, and trauma can increase its risk. Avoiding these is another answer to “how to get rid of white tongue.” This condition is more common in men than women.
A leukoplakia lesion can transform into oral cancer, so make sure to get any lesion in your mouth checked.
Oral Hairy Leukoplakia (OHL)
Oral hairy leukoplakia is a type of leukoplakia where the individual develops white, “hair-like” patches on the tongue. It most commonly develops in people who are infected with the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). The presence of OHL is usually taken as an indication of HIV/AIDS.
Oral Lichen Planus
It’s an autoimmune condition that results in a white tongue. Unfortunately, it is long-term and does not have a cure.
Commonly it affects people above the age of 50 and is more common in women than men.
Different pieces of research indicate that this condition may develop as a result of stress, hepatitis C, dyslipidemia, hypothyroidism, and diabetes mellitus.
With oral lichen planus, there’s also a small risk of the lesion turning into cancer.
It is so-called because of the presence of smooth red patches on the tongue (absent of papillae) with a white border. Geographic tongues can change their “geography” from time to time. That means that the location of the red and white patches changes.
With this, if you’re wondering “how to get rid of white tongue?“, you probably won’t find any helpful answers because of the very nature of the condition. You also cannot prevent it.
People with these may be more sensitive to spicy foods, which can leave them with a burning sensation.
Also, if you’re wondering, “why is my tongue white and cracked?” then you might have tongue fissures, which make your tongue appear rusty. Many people with geographic tongues also have fissures.
It is rare for people with syphilis to have any signs and symptoms develop in their oral cavity. However, it can happen at any stage of the disease.
One manifestation of syphilis is the formation of white lesions on the tongue (it’s relatively more common on the lips). Early treatment of it is important because it can otherwise progress to syphilitic leukoplakia. So, if this is the problem, and you want to learn “how to get rid of white tongue,” you should get in touch with your doctor immediately.
Oral cancer can result in the formation of white, unhealing sores in the mouth, including the tongue, making it appear white. These can be painful and bleed.
Many factors increase the risk of mouth cancer, including tobacco products, excess alcohol drinking, infections, genetics, and nutritional deficiencies.
Other Risk Factors of White Tongue
Some other risk factors for white tongue include the wearing of dentures, a condition known as denture stomatitis.
Other than that, people undergoing cancer treatments are also at a greater risk of developing oral thrush and mouth sores which can give them a white tongue. So, in some cases, “how to get rid of white tongue?” isn’t possible for some time.
How to Get Rid of White Tongue
You can try the following home remedies for white tongue if you have one due to non-health conditions. Moreover, since bad breath can accompany white tongue, these will also answer your question, “how to get rid of white tongue bad breath?”
Maintain Oral Hygiene
It should go without saying that you need to brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss and use a mouthwash to keep your mouth clean. Make sure to use mild fluoride toothpaste for that. In addition, remember, brushing alone isn’t enough. You need to make sure that you’re using the right technique and getting all the areas.
In addition, it’s better if you do water gargles after you eat sweet, sticky meals. Coconut oil pulling (swishing coconut oil in the mouth) can also be helpful in the prevention of a white-coated tongue, so you can try that out too.
One of the best things that you can do for “how to get rid of white tongue?” is to drink water. Since a dry mouth is a common reason why some people end up developing a white tongue in the first place, you need to make sure that you’re drinking enough water to keep your mouth moist.
Since your saliva is primarily made of water, drinking water will also help in its normal production, further keeping the white tongue at bay.
Another tip to keep the mouth moist is chewing gum. The mouth movements help in the release of saliva. If you do these things, you might not even have to look up how to get rid of a white tongue.
Quit Smoking & Excessive Drinking
White tongue is just one of the many problems that result from smoking and excessive drinking.
Smoking and drinking will continually affect your saliva production, so you’ll always end up with a white tongue if you continue these habits. Here, the answer to how to get rid of white tongue is to quit smoking and heavy drinking.
Have A Healthy Diet
What you put in your mouth is most important when it comes to maintaining your tongue health. In general, you need to have a wholesome diet.
Cut out foods that are too sweet or too spicy/salty. Even though spicy foods stimulate the production of saliva, they can end up irritating the surface of the tongue, which can cause other problems.
Speak With Your Doctor
If the white tongue is just one symptom of a bunch of other symptoms, you may have an oral health condition. In this case, you need to speak with your doctor to get the right treatment. Do not try treating it by looking up “how to get rid of white tongue?” on the internet as you may worsen the problem.
Get in touch with your dentist if you experience pain and a burning sensation in your mouth. Also, if you have an immune system problem, you shouldn’t wait till you experience symptoms like pain or burning sensations; you should immediately reach out to your doctor for help.
Most of the time, a white tongue is nothing to worry about. You can’t always prevent it either. Many people look up “how to get rid of white tongue” because they end up with one in the morning, which is usually normal.
However, if you persistently have one despite being physically healthy, poor hygiene, dietary habits, and lifestyle may be to blame. If you do these things right, you can prevent a white tongue altogether without ever having to look up how to get rid of white tongue.
Although if you have a white tongue accompanying other symptoms, it may be due to certain health conditions. In that case, you should immediately speak with your doctor for a checkup.