What is the White Substance on my Tongue?
A healthy tongue is pink looking and moist or it may have a thin white coating on its surface. The surface of your tongue should have small bumps all over, called papillae. Our taste buds sit on these bumps. There are a few other surface textures that are considered normal but this is your classic or textbook tongue.
However, there are many people who struggle with a surface texture that looks more like a blanket of white, or maybe they have developed patches of white under their tongue or on their cheeks. This is not a normal or healthy tongue or mouth.
White tongue conditions
Oral thrush or candidiasis is a yeast infection of the mouth caused by the fungus Candida. White patches develop on the tongue and throat that have a cottage cheese look and feel to them. If you scrape the substance off your tongue, you will expose a red patch. This infection is most likely to occur after a treatment of antibiotics as there is an unbalance of bacteria in the mouth. Other factors that can cause oral thrush include smoking, poor oral hygiene, dentures that don’t fit properly, dry mouth, diabetes, or chemotherapy. If you think you have oral thrush you need to see your doctor immediately as it will only worsen if left untreated. Oral thrush is normally treated with a 7 to 14 day course of antifungal medication.
Leukoplakia is the formation of white patches inside the mouth and on the tongue due to excessive cell growth. The most common cause is tobacco. It is extremely important to visit your dentist to have them determine the cause of the Leukoplakia as it can be a precursor to oral cancer.
Oral lichen planus looks like a spider web of raised white lines on your tongue or the inside of your cheeks. It is normally caused by an autoimmune response and is a chronic inflammatory condition. The condition should be monitored, however, it normally disappears on its own. In very rare cases it can lead to oral cancer.
Risk factors for the above and other tongue conditions include smoking, alcohol, poor diet, poor oral hygiene, a weak immune system or viral infections. To keep your tongue healthy, it is recommended to brush your tongue before brushing and flossing your teeth. It is most effective in the mornings. Brush your tongue from the back to the front, rinsing the brush after each stroke to avoid placing bacteria scraped off the tongue back in the mouth.
Any discomfort, sores, swelling, as well as color, texture or taste changes in the mouth or on the tongue should be monitored and seen to by a dentist or doctor.