Why Is My Tongue White?

tongue white image

How Swollen Taste Buds Can Make Your Tongue Look White and What You Can Do About It 

If you wake up one morning to find your tongue white in place of its normal pinkish hue, rest assured: a white tongue is usually nothing to worry about. Most of the time, poor oral hygiene is the root cause, and with a few weeks of disciplined attention to your oral health routine, it will clear up on its own. 

Why Is My Tongue White? The Most Common Explanation

Here’s what’s really going on when your tongue looks like it saw a ghost.. Far from actually having turned white itself, your tongue appears white because it’s covered by a thick white film of bacteria, food, and dead cells that got trapped between the bumps on your tongue containing the taste buds, called your papillae. These bumps provide bacteria and debris a large surface area to accumulate on, and when the papillae become inflamed and swell, the buildup gets trapped between them. That buildup then appears white when you look at your tongue.

Risk factors for a white tongue include: 

  • Diabetes
  • Using antibiotics
  • Lacking in nutrients, particularly iron or vitamin B12
  • Weak immune system
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Breathing through your mouth 
  • Dry mouth
  • Dehydration
  • Use of certain medications
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol regularly

Less Common Reasons Why Your Tongue Is White

What Can I Do About My White Tongue? 

Most of the time, white tongue goes away within a few weeks on its own. In the meantime, you will want to stay on top of your oral care routine. Since white tongue can make it easier for even more debris to build up in your mouth, you’ll want to protect your gum health and keep bad breath away by taking the time to be thorough when you brush and floss. You can also try anti-fungal mouthwash.


If a few weeks pass and you’re still looking in the mirror and asking, “Why is my tongue still white?!” you may want to consult your doctor about looking into other forms of treatment, which vary depending on the specific cause of your white tongue.

How Can I Keep My Tongue From Turning White? 

Preventative measures against white tongue overlap neatly with strong oral hygiene routines and habits. For a happy smile containing a normal pink-colored tongue, hydrate regularly and brush your teeth with a mild fluoride toothpaste, floss, and use fluoride mouthwash to finish off. And don’t forget to brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper! It also helps to avoid oral irritants like spicy, salty, and acidic foods, cigarettes, mouthwashes with alcohol, and consuming food that is too hot.


For health-related topics, tips, and recipes, make sure to follow along with our Hospitality Health ER blog. We’ve recently covered more mysterious symptoms in “Why Is My Eye Twitching?” and “Why is My Hair Falling Out?.” For giveaways, updates, and COVID-19 tips, like us on Facebook and Instagram