What Triggers White Tongue?

May 7th 2016

Consult with your doctor if you have white tongue that does not go away after several days. If white tongue remains severe or unexplained, discuss possible diagnoses and treatment options with a medical professional.

Poor Oral Hygiene

A buildup of debris, bacteria or other small bits of dead cells may accumulate on the tongue. When these settle between the papillae, the projections inflame and enlarge. Regular brushing of the teeth and daily hygienic practices can alleviate white tongue by cleaning the area and flushing away the debris. Using mouthwash and flossing regularly can improve oral hygiene.


Prolonged use of antibiotics may cause a yeast infection on the tongue. This yeast infection can make white patches appear on the tongue. Other medications may cause a white tongue, so consult with your doctor regarding drugs that may lead to this condition. Antibiotics kill micro-organisms in the body, and this may lead to an overgrowth of the nonbacterial life existing in your mouth.

Alcohol or Tobacco

Frequent use of alcohol and tobacco may produce another kind of inflammation on the tongue called oral lichen planus. White lines or bumps on the tongue can appear after using such substances. Avoid alcohol and tobacco products, and improve oral hygiene to get rid of these spots. Alcohol and tobacco often lead to dehydration of the mouth, which can be another underlying cause of white mouth.


Dehydration in your mouth may come from many sources, including medication, alcohol use, lack of water, dry mouth and mouth breathing. Fix this deficit by taking small sips of water every 15 minutes and avoiding substances that could cause dehydration in your mouth.

Eating Soft Foods

Eating soft foods without any roughage may cause a buildup of debris on your tongue. Roughage, such as the fibrous material found in fruits and vegetables, naturally cleans off the surface of the tongue and removes lingering substances that can lead to white tongue. Using a toothbrush on your tongue also removes debris in a similar fashion.


Leukoplakia is a precancerous condition of the tongue that causes white lesions to appear. Doctors cannot scrape the lesions off, and they may spread to the gums, cheeks and bottom of the mouth. Medical professionals generally consider the use of tobacco products to be the main culprit of leukoplakia.


White tongue represents a condition in which the tongue appears white due to inflammation or overgrowth of the finger-like projections on the surface of the tongue. The white coating comes about due to small objects lodging between the projections known as papillae. Doctors call this inflammatory condition papillae hypertrophy. Several things can cause white tongue.

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