15 Causes & Common Triggers Of White Tongue (You Should Know)

White tongue, also called leukoplakia, is characterized by a white, thick coating on the tongue that may be accompanied by pain or soreness. Although the cause of white tongue is unknown, numerous conditions and substances have been implicated as possible contributors. These include poor dental hygiene, excessive smoking or drinking, certain medications, and chronic dry mouth.

Anyone should direct treatment for white tongue to resolve the underlying cause. For example, improving oral hygiene and quitting smoking will likely eliminate white tongue. However, if your doctor finds that poor dental hygiene is the cause of your white tongue, you may need to visit a dentist to fix any issues with your teeth and gums.

Relatively little has been written about this condition. Readings focus mainly on describing what white tongue looks like and how you can treat it. Let us dive into the various causes of this condition.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is a leading cause of white tongue. While it’s easily treatable in most cases, the condition can be uncomfortable and unsightly until you get it under control.  The coating on the tongue is made up of bacteria, dead skin cells, and food particles that stick to the smooth surface of the papillae. This coating seems white or creamy because it contains keratin, a protein in the skin and hair.

In other people, food debris may collect between the folds of the filiform papillae instead of forming on top giving a yellowish or dark brown color instead of white or cream-colored.

Also, not taking care of your teeth and gums can make you more susceptible to gum disease. But, even if you don’t have these conditions, keeping your mouth clean will prevent gum recession and tooth decay, both serious problems that can lead to tooth loss.