How to Get Rid of White Tongue – When to be Concerned about Oral Thrush

white tongue
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman


A white tongue, also known as oral thrush or candidiasis, is a common condition characterized by a white coating on the tongue that can cause discomfort and bad breath. A minor amount of fungus typical to exist in your mouth. But occasionally, the fungus can overgrow and cause a yeast infection. When this kind of yeast infection manifests inside your oral cavity, it is known as oral thrush. Oropharyngeal candidiasis, oral candidiasis, and simply “thrush” are other names. Infants and children are mostly affected by oral thrush. 

White or yellowish lesions or patches develop on the inner cheeks, tongue, gums, lips, and roof of the mouth. Treatment often removes the spots. Typically, the infection is not severe and rarely results in complications. Treatment is frequently simple. However, it can spread to other parts of the body and lead to potentially life-threatening consequences in patients with compromised immune systems.

What Does it Mean When Your Tongue is White?

When your tongue appears white, it usually means there is a growth or coating of bacteria, Debris, or dead cells on the surface of your tongue. Various factors, including poor oral hygiene, dry mouth, smoking, certain medical conditions, and an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria in the mouth, can cause this buildup.

Sometimes, a white tongue can be a symptom of oral thrush, a yeast infection caused by the Candida fungus. It’s important to note that while a white tongue can be uncomfortable and unsightly, it is usually not a severe condition. It can often be treated with simple measures such as improving oral hygiene, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding smoking and alcohol. However, suppose your white tongue persists or is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain, difficulty swallowing, or changes in taste. In that case, it’s essential to see a doctor to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Why Do I Have White Spots on My Tongue?

White spots on the tongue can have various causes, and it’s essential to determine the underlying cause to receive appropriate treatment. Some possible causes of white spots on the tongue include:

Oral thrush 

A yeast infection caused by the Candida fungus can cause white patches on the tongue and inside the mouth.


A condition in which thick, white patches develop on the tongue and inside the mouth. This can be caused by irritants such as smoking or tobacco use.

Oral lichen planus 

A condition that can cause white, lacy patches on the tongue and inside the mouth.

Geographic tongue

A condition with irregular patches that can appear white, red or both.

Vitamin deficiency

A lack of vitamins, such as B12 and folate, can cause white spots on the tongue.

Oral cancer

White spots on the tongue, however uncommon, may indicate oral cancer. Other symptoms may include mouth sores, difficulty swallowing, and persistent pain or numbness.


Trauma or injury to the tongue can cause white spots or patches to appear. This can result from accidentally biting the tongue, brushing too hard, or using sharp or abrasive objects in the mouth.

Certain medications

Medications can cause white spots on the tongue as a side effect. This includes antibiotics, immunosuppressants, and chemotherapy drugs.

Read More: Why Do I Have Black Spots on Tongue?

Experiencing a White Tongue? Consult one of our Doctors Now.

Symptoms of Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is a yeast or fungal infection caused by the overgrowth of the Candida fungus in the mouth. The symptoms of oral thrush can vary depending on the severity of the disease but may include the following:

  • White or yellowish patches or lesions on the tongue, gums, inner cheeks, roof of the mouth, or throat.
  • Discomfort or pain in the mouth or throat.
  • Difficulty swallowing or speaking.
  • A burning sensation or a feeling of dryness in the mouth.
  • Loss of taste or altered taste sensation.
  • Redness or Cracking at the corners of the mouth.
  • A cottony feeling in the mouth.
  • A bad taste in the mouth or bad breath.

It’s important to note that some people may not experience any symptoms, and in some cases, oral thrush may spread to other parts of the body, such as the esophagus, which can cause more severe symptoms.

Oral Thrush is Treatable. Consult one of our Online Doctors Now.

Who is Most at Risk for White Tongue?

White tongue, known as oral thrush or candidiasis, is a common condition that occurs when there is an overgrowth of the Candida fungus in the mouth.

People who are most at risk for white tongue include:

Infants and children

Infants and young children, especially those who use pacifiers or suck their thumbs.

Weak Immune system

People with weak immunity, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy.


People who take antibiotics or other medications that disrupt the natural bacterial balance in the mouth.


People who wear dentures or have poor oral hygiene.

Comorbid Conditions

People with certain medical disorders, such as diabetes or dry mouth.

It is essential to note that while anyone can develop a white tongue, certain factors can increase the risk of developing the condition.

Consult one of our Doctors Online to Discuss your Risk of Developing Oral Thrush.

How to Get Rid of Your White Tongue?

White tongue can occur for various reasons, such as poor oral hygiene, dehydration, smoking, medication side effects, or an underlying medical condition. Some tips that may help you eliminate a white tongue are the following.

Practice good oral hygiene

Brush your teeth twice daily and use a tongue scraper or brush to clean your tongue gently. This will help remove any debris and bacteria contributing to the white coating.

Adequate hydration 

Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist and prevent dehydration, which can lead to a dry, coated tongue.

Avoid smoking and tobacco products

Smoking can irritate your tongue and cause it to turn white. Quitting smoking can improve your oral health and help eliminate the white coating.

Limit your alcohol and caffeine intake

These substances can dehydrate your body and contribute to a white tongue.

Adjust your diet

Avoid eating spicy, acidic, or sugary foods that can irritate your tongue. Add more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet to improve oral health.

See a doctor or dentist

If your white tongue persists despite these measures, it may indicate an underlying medical condition. Consult with your doctor or dentist to rule out any serious health problems.

Maintaining good oral hygiene and lifestyle changes can help prevent and treat a white tongue.

Discuss Permanent Methods to Eliminate the White Tongue with one of our Online Doctors.

Home Remedies for White Tongue

Here are several home remedies that can help treat white tongues. Here are some of them:

Saltwater rinses

Mix a tablespoon of salt with warm water and gargle before spitting it out. This can help remove any bacteria or debris contributing to the white coating on your tongue.

Oil pulling

Swish a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth before spitting it out. This can help reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth and improve oral hygiene.

Baking soda

A teaspoon of baking soda with water in a paste consistency can help; apply it to your tongue and gently scrub with a toothbrush. This can help remove the white coating and improve oral hygiene.


Supplements or foods such as yogurt or kefir can help balance the bacteria in your mouth and improve oral health.

Aloe vera

Your tongue should be given a little aloe vera gel coating, which you should then let sit for a few minutes before rinsing off. Due to its antibacterial qualities, aloe vera can aid in lowering oral bacterial populations.

It’s important to note that these home remedies may only be effective for some. 

Discuss which Home Remedy Best Suits you with White Plaques on Your Tongue with one of our Doctors Online.

Is White Tongue Genetic?

There are no specific genetic conditions that directly cause white tongue. However, certain medical conditions that have a genetic component can cause a white tongue as a symptom. These conditions include:

Oral thrush

This yeast infection caused by Candida albicans can lead to white patches on the tongue and other areas in the mouth.

Geographic tongue

This benign condition causes irregular red patches on the tongue, which white patches can sometimes accompany.


White patches or plaques develop on the tongue, which can sometimes be precancerous.

Oral lichen planus

This is a chronic inflammatory disease that can cause white patches on the tongue, as well as other areas in the mouth.

While these conditions have a genetic component, their development is affected by other factors, such as lifestyle and environmental factors.

What Vitamin Are You Lacking If Your Tongue Is White?

There is no specific vitamin that causes a white tongue. A white tongue can be because of a buildup of dead cells, bacteria, or food particles on the tongue’s surface, which can be a sign of poor oral hygiene, dry mouth, or an underlying health condition.

However, certain vitamin deficiencies can lead to oral health problems, including a white coating on the tongue. For example, vitamin B12, folate, or iron deficiency can cause glossitis, a tongue inflammation that can lead to a white or sore tongue.

Consult one of our Doctors Online to Treat and Manage White Patches on the Tongue.

FAQs About White Tongue Answered By Your Doctors Online Team

What is white stuff on the tongue?

The white stuff on the tongue is a common symptom of various oral conditions, such as oral thrush and leukoplakia. It can also be caused by poor oral hygiene, dry mouth, smoking, or irritation from certain foods or medications.

Does a white tongue mean you are sick?

A white tongue can be an indication of an underlying health issue. It may be caused by poor oral hygiene or a buildup of bacteria in the mouth. Other possible causes include dehydration, dry mouth, smoking, and certain medications. Other symptoms accompanying the white coating on the tongue could indicate an underlying infection or illness.

Can white tongue be serious?

Rarely a white tongue can indicate a serious underlying health condition. It may indicate an infection such as thrush or oral lichen planus. It could also be a symptom of a more serious condition like leukoplakia or oral cancer.

Can dehydration cause a white tongue?

Yes, dehydration can cause a white tongue in some cases. Dehydration causes the body to generate less saliva, which can cause bacteria and dead cells to accumulate on the tongue. The tongue may become white or have a white coating due to this development. Dehydration can result in a white tongue, which can be avoided by drinking enough water and remaining hydrated. However, it is crucial to seek medical help if the white coating on the tongue continues even after rehydrating.

Can white tongue mean liver disease?

There is no direct link between a white tongue and liver problems. However, liver disease can cause other symptoms that may contribute to a white tongue, such as a dry mouth and a weakened immune system. Certain liver conditions like cirrhosis can also cause oral thrush, leading to a white coating on the tongue. Additionally, certain medications used to treat liver disease may cause dry mouth or alter the balance of bacteria in the mouth, leading to a white tongue.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

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