Is your tongue coated with an ugly, white film? Here’s why and what you can do about it.
When you inspect your tongue in the mirror, is it a healthy pink shade or is it covered with an ugly, white film? The presence of a white tongue coating is a common problem that can have a variety of causes. Sometimes white tongue coating is caused by the general buildup of dead skin cells. These cells may accumulate when the tongue isn’t brushed regularly or under conditions of dehydration, particularly during the warm weather months when not enough water is being consumed.
Another cause for a white tongue is oral thrush, caused by a fungus known as Candida. The presence of Candida, although not serious in and of itself, can indicate a weakened immune system. A tongue infection with Candida can occur after using antibiotics or steroid based medications. These medications cause thrush by allowing the fungus to overgrow on the tongue. To distinguish an oral thrush infection from buildup of dead skin cells on the tongue, use a tongue depressor to gently scrape the white tongue coating. If the coating scrapes off and leaves a reddened area, it could be oral thrush. If you suspect oral thrush, contact your doctor.
If the white tongue coating is due to a simple buildup of dead skin cells on the tongue, a thorough tongue cleaning can help the problem. Although you can buy various gadgets on the market to clean your tongue, you don’t need to invest in fancy equipment. A soft toothbrush should work as well as more expensive tools.
To clean your tongue, apply a small amount of toothpaste to a soft toothbrush and use slow, brushing movements to brush the tongue moving from front to back with the toothbrush. Don’t apply too much pressure as this may cause bleeding. It may take several sweeps with the toothbrush to remove the dead skin cells. Go as far back on the tongue as you can comfortably reach without gagging. When this is completed, rinse your mouth with warm water.
Now that you’ve removed the white tongue coating, you’ll want to repeat this procedure every few days to ensure that the white tongue coating doesn’t recur. It’s also important to drink more water on a daily basis to help flush out any bacteria or debris that can collect in the grooves on the tongue. It can also help to rinse your mouth with a spoon of salt placed into a cup of warm water on a daily basis.
If these measures fail to eliminate white tongue coating, see your doctor to make sure oral thrush isn’t contributing to the problem.