Have you ever noticed the unsightly white film on your tongue as you get up to brush your teeth in the morning? Ideally, your tongue should be pink. However, lack of oral hygiene or other factors may lead to the formation of a pesky white coating.

As alarming as it may seem, it is a common phenomenon and does not always indicate a serious health issue. However, a white tongue is not something to be ignored, and it is vital to clean the tongue every day to ward off oral health problems.

According to dental experts, the white film is the papillae, which are formed by dead skin, food particles, plaque, and bacteria accumulation that feels like a rough layer on your tongue made up of grainy fibers. Papillae buildup usually forms when you do not clean your tongue properly and regularly. If left unclean, this collection of bacteria can become difficult to remove.

Not brushing your tongue regularly can thicken the layer of papillae and make your breath smell like rotten fish. Maintaining oral hygiene is extremely important, as not cleaning your tongue daily can make it harder for you to slough the white layer off, causing more serious health problems later.

Getting Rid of Oral Bacteria

Oral Bacteria

Preserving your tongue’s pink color is not as complicated as you may think. You can prevent plaque buildup by simply scrubbing your tongue every time you brush your teeth. You should also stay sufficiently hydrated and drink enough water to encourage the production of saliva, which plays an important role in inhibiting debris accumulation on your tongue.

Some experts also recommend that the use of alcohol-based mouthwash should be avoided entirely or at least be limited. These cleaners can make your mouth dry and prevent it from removing plaque buildup. Oral care involves brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing, and cleaning your tongue each time until it retains its pink color. However, sometimes a white tongue does not just signal poor hygiene. It could be a sign of a bigger problem.

When to Call a Doctor


A white tongue due to plaque buildup is a common occurrence. But in some cases, it may be caused by fungus or yeast growth, according to oral health specialists. People suffering from diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or cancer have weakened immunity that blocks their body’s ability to fight fungal overgrowth. The uninhibited proliferation of fungus can make the tongue appear white, also known as thrush.

If your white tongue is a result of thrush, then the grime in your mouth is the least of your problems. You will notice other parts of your mouth or throat turning white, and scraping the muck off can be a painful experience. Your tongue will become sensitive and red as a result of this condition. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should see a doctor to identify the root cause of your problem.

However, if you notice an unusual white formation on your tongue in the form of circles or rings, you may be alarmed. This phenomenon is called geographical tongue and doesn’t really harm you in any way. You do not need to panic in this case, as it does not require any form of treatment.


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