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.
White tongue is generally harmless, and may be helped by gently brushing your tongue with a toothbrush or tongue scraper and drinking plenty of water.
Make an appointment with your doctor or dentist if:
- You're concerned about changes in your tongue
- Your tongue hurts
- Your white tongue persists for longer than a few weeks
Feb. 12, 2015
- Coated or white tongue. NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coated-tongue/Pages/Introduction.aspx. Accessed Dec. 2, 2014.
- Felix DH, et al. Oral medicine: 6. White lesions. Dental Update. 2013;40:150.
- Reamy BV, et al. Common tongue conditions in primary care. American Family Physician. 2010;81:627.
- Bhattacharyya I, et al. White lesions. Otolaryngologic Clinics of North America. 2011;44:109.
- Detecting oral cancer: A guide for health care professionals. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/topics/oralcancer/detectingoralcancer.htm#WarningSigns. Accessed Dec. 2, 2014.
- Salinas TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 6, 2014.
- Bruce AJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 6, 2015.