White Coated Tongue Treatment in Bristol, VA
Is your tongue coated with a sticky white film, white patches, or white bumps? It's likely a condition called white coated tongue.
This condition is usually harmless, but it can also be a symptom of a more serious medical condition like oral thrush, syphilis, or mouth cancer. Seeking medical attention is important to diagnose or rule out these conditions.
What are the symptoms of white coated tongue?
This condition is characterized by the following symptoms:
- white sticky film on your tongue
- bumps, spots, or patches on your tongue
- painful sores on your tongue or gums
- mouth dryness
Causes and prevention
Poor oral hygiene can lead to white tongue. Bacteria, fungus, dirt, food, and dead cells get trapped between the tongue's inflamed tiny bumps (papillae) turning it white.
White tongue can have a wide range of causes:
- insufficient brushing and flossing
- brushing or scraping your tongue too hard
- dry mouth
- mouth breathing
- smoking or chewing tobacco
- excessive alcohol drinking
- strep throat
- congenital heart disease
- periodontal (gum) disease
- irritation, such as from your teeth's edges or dental equipment
In many cases, white tongue resolves on its own. Gently scraping or brushing the tongue with baking soda helps get rid of the debris, but won't affect the underlying cause.
Eliminating tobacco and alcohol, as well as adopting an anti-oxidant rich diet or supplementing nutrient deficiencies can help resolve these symptoms as well as improve underlying immune system dysfunctions.
Sometimes these symptoms can be related to:
- oral lichen planus: an immune system disorder causing white patches and sores on your tongue and in your mouth
- oral thrush: an infection caused by Candida yeast and common in patients with diabetes, a weakened immune system, iron or vitamin B deficiency, or denture wearers
- syphilis: a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can cause white patches, called leukoplakia, to form on your tongue
- leukoplakia: white patches on the inside of your mouth, gums, and tongue caused by smoking or chewing tobacco, or drinking excessive alcohol
- geographic tongue: missing patches of papillae on tongue that look like islands on a map
- antibiotic use: can kill helpful bacteria and allow Candida yeast overgrowth
- chronic gastritis: complications of imbalanced gut bacteria
- mouth or tongue cancer
How is white coated tongue diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will examine your tongue, and if the condition is severe, a sample of the white substance may be scraped off and examined under a microscope.
If oral cancer is suspected, a small sample of tissue will be removed for lab analysis (biopsy). This procedure is usually fast and painless. If cancer or pre-cancer is detected, your mouth and throat will be inspected with an endoscope (a flexible tube with a camera attached that's inserted into your throat) or imaging tests like x-rays, CT scans, ultrasound, or MRI.
Tongue coating is one of the most important foundations of tongue diagnosis in traditional Chinese medicine, which holds that changes of tongue coating can't be separated from the inner environment of the body - organs, body fluid and blood.2
Research published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggests that tongue coating is caused by spleen and stomach inflammation, and can be a sign of chronic gastritis. A thick white coating on the back or at the center of the tongue may indicate an imbalance of good gut bacteria, nutritional deficiencies and stress. Once the type of tongue is accessed, appropriate herbal formulas are prescribed.
Treatments for various types of white tongue
Once its cause, type and related condition is detected white tongue can be treated a number of ways.
As with any medical procedure, results of these treatments vary from patient to patient, depending on age, genetics, condition severity, as well as environmental and health factors. Consult your healthcare practitioner before embarking on your treatment journey.
This form of white tongue can be caused by injury, uneven teeth, improperly fitted dentures, or long-term alcohol use. Eliminating tobacco and alcohol from your diet, and eating more antioxidant-rich foods like spinach, carrots, taking beta carotene, vitamin A and green tea may deactivate irritants and resolve symptoms.
Follow-up appointments are crucial. Once you develop leukoplakia, you have an increased risk of developing it again in the future. A history of leukoplakia can increase your risk for oral cancer, so let your healthcare practitioner know if you noticed irregular patches in your mouth.
Oral lichen planus
This chronic autoimmune disorder mediated by T lymphocytes leading to inflammation and cell death. Patients infected with hepatitis C seem to have a higher prevalence of oral lichen planus.
Severe cases are traditionally treated with topical, oral or injected corticosteroids like cyclosporine, hydroxychloroquine, azathioprine, mycophenolate and dapsone.
Because the side effects of corticosteroids are well known (hypertension, osteoporosis, diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, infection) researchers have been clinically validating alternatives.
Studies have found that turmeric treatment for oral lichen planus causes no or minimal side effects.1 Topical aloe vera (swishing, not swallowing) has also been shown to treat inflammation and lesions, promoting skin regeneration.
Other remedies include:
- oil pulling: swishing coconut oil in your mouth to dislodge bacteria and hydrate mouth
- oregano oil: antibiotic properties may help remove Candida
- sea salt water: swishing warm water with sea salt may exfoliate your tongue and remove bacteria; however, salt may dry out your mouth
- colloidal silver: swishing water infused with silver nanoparticles in hopes of killing bacteria or fungus; never swallow colloidal silver solution, as long-term ingestion can cause an irreversible condition called argyria, which turns your skin bluish-gray
- garlic: allicin found in garlic may have antifungal properties and may remove Candida
- pau d'arco tea: a bark tea with antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties that can help remove Candida
This overgrowth of a yeast-shaped fungus called Candida albicans in the mouth and throat may be triggered by:
- illness: dry mouth, poorly controlled diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS infection
- medications: antibiotics, corticosteroids, chemotherapy or other cancer drugs, radiation
- birth control pills
Treatment depends on the severity and the cause and can include simple home remedies, oral medications, or systemic medications.
Antifungal mouthwash (nystatin) or clotrimazole lozenges for short-term use. Miconazole, fluconazole or itraconazole antifungal medication are often prescribed.
To avoid side effects of long term pharmaceuticals, probiotics like lactobacillus acidophilus are prescribed, or also available in fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut yogurt.
This sexually transmitted disease must be treated with antibiotic penicillin until it is gone. The treatment will kill the bacterium responsible for syphilis and prevent further damage, but it will not reverse the damage already done.
For post treatment care to boost the immune system a high-quality vitamin B12 supplement can be taken along with vitamin B12 rich foods like wild salmon and tuna, beef and chicken liver, organic yogurt and lamb. Maintaining optimal levels will help relieve fatigue and depression and boost nervous system function.
Mouth or tongue cancer
At this stage radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery are commonly prescribed.
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Although white coated tongue typically resolves by itself, it can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious illness, like thrush, syphilis, or cancer. Getting it checked by your medical provider is a good idea so any concerning condition can be diagnosed or ruled out.
1. Sharma C, Kaur J, Shishodia S, Aggarwal BB, Ralhan R. Curcumin down regulates smokeless tobacco-induced NF-kappaB activation and COX-2 expression in human oral premalignant and cancer cells. Toxicology. 2006;228:1–15. [PubMed]
2. Yu Zhao, 1 Xiao-jun Gou, 1 Jian-ye Dai, 2 Jing-hua Peng,1 Qin Feng,1 Shu-jun Sun,2 Hui-juan Cao,2 Ning-ning Zheng,2 Jun-wei Fang,2 Jian Jiang,1 Shi-bing Su,3 Ping Liu,1 , 3 Yi-yang Hu,1 , 3 , * and Yong-yu Zhang. Differences in Metabolites of Different Tongue Coatings in Patients with Chronic Hepatitis B Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013; 2013: 204908. Published online 2013 Apr 17. doi: 10.1155/2013/204908
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