CausesBy Mayo Clinic staff
White tongue is the result of inflammation of the finger-like projections (papillae) on the surface of your tongue. The appearance of a white coating is caused by debris, bacteria and dead cells getting lodged between the inflamed papillae.
Causes of inflammation include:
Conditions associated with white patches or other discolorations of your tongue include:
Causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom. Work with your doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.
- 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.
- Lerman MA, et al. Generalized white appearance of the oral mucosa. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 2010;141:867.
- Evaluation of the dental patient. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental_disorders/approach_to_the_dental_patient/evaluation_of_the_dental_patient.html. Accessed Oct. 12, 2011.