White tongue is a coating of debris, bacteria and dead cells on your tongue that makes it look white. Although the appearance of white tongue may be alarming, the condition is usually harmless and temporary. However, white tongue can be an indication of some serious conditions, ranging from infection to a precancerous condition.
If you're concerned about a white coating or white spots on your tongue, contact your doctor or dentist.
Causes of papillae hypertrophy or inflammation include, for example:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Dry mouth
- Smoking or other oral tobacco use
- Alcohol use
- Mouth breathing
- Low roughage diet eating mostly soft or mashed foods
- Mechanical irritation from sharp tooth edges or dental appliances
Examples of conditions associated with white patches or other discolorations of your tongue include:
- Use of certain medications, such as prolonged use of antibiotics that may bring on an oral yeast infection
- Oral thrush
- Geographic tongue
- Oral lichen planus
- Mouth cancer
- Tongue cancer
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.