Why is My Tongue Discolored?

smoking oral health sterling vaMost of the bacteria in our mouths is harmless, and serves as one of the first steps in digestion. Sometimes, however, bacteria, immune diseases, or other pre-existing health conditions can cause oral health problems and tongue discoloration. If your tongue isn’t as pink and smooth as it’s supposed to be and has a white appearance, you might be experiencing one of these 4 white tongue causes. Learn more about tongue discoloration and what to do about it with Ridgetop Dental in Sterling, VA.

Causes of White Tongue Discoloration

You may be familiar with the “mouth-body link,” which is the close relationship between your oral health and your overall health. Oral health problems can cause health problems like heart disease, but the link goes both ways. Systemic problems, like immune diseases, often appear in the mouth, such as lesions associated with HIV.

Here are just 4 possible causes of white tongue and what to do about it:

1. Oral Thrush

Oral thrush can cause a white or yellow film to form on the tongue and can cause discomfort when eating and drinking. Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the mouth, which can be a result of poor oral hygiene, a weakened immune system, or antibiotics.

Treatment for oral thrush involves antifungal medication, adding a mouthwash, and excellent oral hygiene. Some oral thrush resolves on its own with proper oral care. Your doctor may also recommend adding probiotics to your diet if you experience oral thrush as a result of antibiotics.

2. Oral lichen planus

An autoimmune inflammatory problem can cause white patches to form in the mouth and cause sore gums. Most of the time, oral lichen planus resolves on its own, but some cases require a steroid mouth rinse or a steroid spray.

3. Poor Oral Hygiene

Most of the time, a white tongue is a result of poor oral hygiene. The tongue has small bumps, called papillae, which can become swollen, inflamed, and discolored if there is an overgrowth of bacteria, yeast, or even with dehydration. Consider adding a tongue scraper to your oral hygiene routine and using an ADA-accepted mouthwash to help with bacteria buildup.

4. Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia causes white patches to form inside the cheeks, on the tongue, and along the gums. People who smoke, chew tobacco, or consume excessive amounts of alcohol are at risk of leukoplakia. In most cases, these white patches are harmless, but in rare cases, leukoplakia turns into oral cancer. See your healthcare provider or dentist if you notice white patches in the mouth that do not go away.

White Tongue Treatment in Northern VA

Although most cases of white tongue resolve on their own, it’s still a good idea to visit your dentist to receive a correct diagnosis. Don’t wait until it’s too late to identify a problem with your smile. Schedule an appointment with Ridgetop Dental online or call us at (703) 520-7410 today.

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