By Last Updated: March 6, 2023

A dental check-up involves a comprehensive examination of your teeth, mouth, and lips. This also includes your gums, cheeks, palate, and tongue.

The tongue can help with the significant diagnosis of dental diseases and other health concerns, so it is important that it is checked every six months during your routine check-ups. At Midpark Dental, we thoroughly inspect your tongue, including all surfaces and sides, to check for any abnormalities.

In this read, we will specifically talk about white tongue – what it can mean, how it can affect your oral health, and possible treatments. Aside from that, we will learn more about the tongue, what its appearance is telling you, and when you should see a dentist or physician. 

Why is checking the tongue important?

A healthy tongue should be pinkish and should have the same texture throughout. Not many know this, but the tongue actually helps identify and diagnose several diseases. Any changes to the colour, shape, and overall appearance of your tongue may serve as markers for oral health issues and your physical well-being.

When it comes to dental procedures, the tongue also helps your dentist pinpoint if specific treatments should be delayed or not performed to ensure your safety.

For example, people with a black tongue may indicate radiation therapy. So, your dentist must postpone tooth extractions to prevent complications with the current treatment.

Specific colours of the tongue can mean certain things. This is why we need to learn about the possible causes and treatments of each. Today, we will dive deeper into the white tongue and everything you should know about it. 

What causes a white tongue?

A white tongue can mean several things. But it is usually nothing major to worry about, especially if you are in good health.

The most common cause of white tongue is poor oral hygiene. When bacteria, food, and foreign debris are trapped between your tongue papillae, these turn your tongue white. To resolve this, use a tongue scraper after brushing your teeth.

Another usual culprit for white spots on the tongue is dehydration and vitamin deficiency. When your body lacks water and the necessary nutrients to keep it healthy, it will likely turn white or have patches of pale colour. This should signal you to take a balanced meal and drink more glasses of water every day.

Aside from these, other causes of white tongue include:

  • Flu or fever
  • Irritation – from sharp teeth or dental appliances (braces, dentures)
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Frequent alcohol use
  • Trauma from tongue biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Antibiotic use

Conditions that Cause White Tongue

A white tongue or white patches on the tongue can also mean certain diseases such as:


Irritation of the tongue due to excessive tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption is likely to cause leukoplakia. This results in overgrowth of the cells of the tongue to cause white raised patches on the tongue. Leukoplakia is not a serious condition, but if oral health is continuously neglected, it may develop into mouth cancer.

Oral thrush

This is a common fungal infection of the mouth caused by yeasts called Candida. Candida exists in small amounts in the mouth. But irritation can cause the overgrowth of the tongue papilla to result in white patches on the tongue and inner cheeks. Oral thrush can be painful but can be treated immediately with antifungal medications.

Oral lichen planus

Lichen planus occurs when the body’s immune system is compromised, causing a chronic inflammatory condition that may manifest as white patches on the tongue.


This is a bacterial infection caused by a sexually transmitted disease. Painless, white ulcers on the tongue are the first sign of syphilis. Immediate diagnosis should be made so your physician can prescribe the proper medication. If left untreated, it may worsen to involve other organs.

Geographic tongue

White patches on the tongue that recur often are called geographic tongue. The exact cause is unknown, but it is often triggered by vitamin B deficiency, emotional stress, hormonal disturbance, arthritis, or diabetes.

Other Tongue Colors and Their Meaning

Aside from white tongue, some color changes that you should take note of and their possible meanings are:

  • Bright red tongue – blood disorders
  • Black tongue – poor oral hygiene, excessive tobacco use, HIV (rare), radiation therapy, diabetes
  • Purple tongue – heart or lung disease
  • Yellow tongue – liver or stomach disease

When Should You See a Dentist?

The general rule of thumb is that if you notice anything out of the ordinary, always seek the advice of a professional. So, if you are experiencing a white tongue or other colour changes to your tongue, schedule a visit with us at Midpark Dental so we can inspect it immediately.

While most white tongue concerns are rarely of grave concern, nothing beats prevention when it comes to your health.

Early diagnosis and treatment help with better and more predictable results. If your dentist can identify the cause of the white tongue as early as possible, they can provide an ideal treatment plan to address the problem.

Discover Holistic Dentistry at Midpark Dental

At Midpark Dental, we always punctuate the importance of keeping your mouth healthy to avoid bigger concerns that may affect your overall well-being.

The mouth is interconnected with the rest of your body. If something is wrong with your teeth, gums, or tongue, it may signify other concerns for your other organs. This is why thorough dental check-ups are essential.

If you see any signs that seem different or abnormal, schedule a visit with us and let us ease your worries with a quick check-up!