White Tongue: Should You Worry About This Symptom?


A healthy tongue is most often pinkish in color. However, it happens that it is covered with a whitish deposit, which sometimes tends towards yellow. We are talking about saburral language here. But how can we recognize it? Explanations…

Having a white tongue, what does that mean?

“White tongue is usually secondary to a digestive pathology such as gastroesophageal reflux or oral candidiasis,” explains Dr. Bouccara.

In fact, in the case of GERD, the symptom will therefore be caused by the acidic contents of the stomach rising towards the esophagus, which will irritate the tongue. Candidiasis, also called thrush, most often occurs after antibiotic treatment. This is because of the imbalance it causes in the digestive and oral flora.

But the white tongue can also have other origins. In particular excessive consumption of alcohol or tobacco, taking certain medications such as anti-depressants or even cancer treatments or an allergy.

It is not uncommon for individuals with reflux to have a pasty mouthfeel. As if they always felt like they had something in their mouths or were chewing.

Indeed, a pasty mouth also often accompanies a subburial tongue without particular affection. It is then necessary to adopt good dental and oral hygiene. This by brushing your teeth after each meal.

White tongue and stress!

Indeed, even if it may seem surprising, but a white tongue can be caused by stress. “By modifying the composition and quantity of saliva, stress can indeed lead to dehydration and therefore a white tongue”, also confirms Doctor Sharon Bouccara.

White tongue: when should you worry?

If the white tongue appears suddenly, it is therefore imperative to consult a doctor quickly. In fact, he will carry out a clinical examination and may thus prescribe an analysis of the deposit present on the tongue if he deems it necessary.

What are the first symptoms of tongue cancer?

Indeed, the appearance of white or red spots in the oral cavity can now be one of the symptoms of cancer. Also, we sometimes observe lesions similar to canker sores, rather whitish.

However, you should be reassured! A white tongue is rarely a sign of cancer. But if in doubt and in case of concern, it is better to consult a doctor.

A relationship with Covid 19?

More than a year after the start of the pandemic, English scientists began to talk about “Covid”. As Dr. Bouccara points out, “a few studies have shown the presence of white spots on the tongue during a Covid-19 infection”.

Indeed, this symptom is still quite rare and is not present in all Covid-19 patients. In some, it is not white spots, but rather blisters or small ulcerations.


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