The tongue is the strongest and most essential muscle in the body. Some of the most basic functions, such as tasting the food, swallowing, and speech, depend on it. For that reason, it’s important to ensure that it remains in the pink of health.
The appearance of your tongue is reflective of your inner health. When everything is running smoothly inside, your tongue gives off a natural pinkish hue without any signs of pigmentation. On the other hand, if your tongue appears to be covered with a greyish-white coating, either entirely or in patches, it is generally due to some underlying health issue.
This discoloration, commonly referred to as “white tongue,” may seem alarming but is mostly harmless. Some of the most common causes of white tongue are as follows:
1. Improper oral hygiene or care
Over time, bacteria, fungi, food debris, and dead cells can all get trapped between the papillae or tongue nodules, causing them to get inflamed and turning the tongue white. It is easy for debris and microorganisms to get stuck within the tongue’s niches and become resistant to getting flushed by saliva. This is why regularly brushing your teeth and tongue is so important.
2. Dry mouth
When you're not hydrating properly, your body works to conserve the fluid it does have. That's why one of the first signs of dehydration is decreased saliva production. Your tongue might feel dry and even swollen, and it may take on a white appearance.
4. Excessive alcohol or tobacco
Excessive alcohol intake, smoking, or tobacco use, which can irritate the lining of your mouth and lead to the development of thick, stubborn, premalignant lesions on the gums, the floor of the mouth, inside of the cheeks, and even tongue.
5. Some diseases
A number of diseases, such as oral thrush or syphilis can manifest as a white tongue, and call for immediate medical attention.
Ways to Treat a White Tongue at Home
1. Chew on raw garlic
We know garlic is often the cause of bad breath, so you wouldn’t expect it to be used in any way to clean the mouth. But it truly can help, so don’t be afraid to eat raw garlic – it will help you kill bacteria and cleanse the tongue.
2. Use aloe vera
Aloe has anti-inflammatory and healing properties that make it a great white tongue treatment. To kill the germs on the tongue and on the gums, put a tablespoon of aloe vera juice in your mouth, swish it for a few minutes, and spit it out.
Then rinse your mouth with warm water. You can repeat this several times a day.
3. Brush with salt
Salt is one of the best helpers for cleansing the tongue. Abrasive salt particles will remove contamination and dead cells from the tongue.
Sprinkle some salt onto your tongue and lightly brush with a toothbrush for a minute. Then rinse your mouth with water. Repeat twice a day.
4. Make a turmeric paste
Turmeric isn't only a spice, but also an excellent alternative to antiseptic drugs for the mouth. Combine turmeric and citrus juice until you get a pasty consistency, then rub the paste onto the tongue for 2 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with warm water.
5. Use a toothbrush or scrub
Gently brushing your tongue with a toothbrush or a special brush from the bottom up, from the base to the tip, will manually clear away any of the grime or bacteria that may be causing white tongue. Don’t press too hard – it’ll work best with a softer approach.
6. Make a disinfecting mouthwash with herbs and salt
Herbs like chamomile, mint, and sage have medicinal properties that make them effective when cleaning your tongue. Take a tablespoon of chamomile, a tablespoon of mint, and a tablespoon of sage, then add a pinch of oak bark to the mixture and fill it with 4 cups of boiled water.
Wait for the broth to cool and strain it. Then pour a tablespoon of salt into the broth. Swish with this remedy twice a day after brushing your teeth.
7. Don't smoke
Smoking can help inflame the papillae of the tongue. This means that dead cells will accumulate on the tongue, which creates a comfortable environment for the growth of bacteria.
Also, cigarette smoke contains chemicals that are unhealthy for mouth tissue.
8. Don't drink alcohol
Alcohol affects the tongue in two ways at once – it causes inflammation of the papillae in the tongue and dehydrates the body. Therefore, it's better to refrain from drinking excessively.
9. Drink more water
Water helps the whole body, the tongue included. As we know, dehydration and dry mouth can lead to a white tongue.
Drink regularly and consider factors such as your body weight, activity level, and the climate of your local area. Always carry a bottle of water with you so that you can instantly replenish the level of water in your body if you're thirsty.
10. Improve oral hygiene
Careful oral hygiene can help reduce the number of bacteria. It's necessary to clean both the teeth and the tongue after each meal – in the morning and before bedtime. Ideally, begin by cleaning the teeth and tongue, then use dental floss, followed by an oral irrigator, and finally disinfectant mouthwash.
White tongue is usually treatable from home, and isn’t normally a sign of something more serious. If your white tongue won’t go away after trying these remedies, however, a trip to your doctor may be necessary.