A healthy tongue generally looks pinkish, so if it turns yellow, it may worry you. Yellow tongue is a term used to describe an area of the tongue that has a greyish-yellow coating on it which may cover the entire tongue or may appear in patches. It’s usually just a sign of trapped food or dead cells on your tongue. While the causes are many, you should also know the ways to get rid of a yellow tongue.
Our tongue is covered with food receptors called papillae which are in the form of tiny bumps on the surface of your tongue. Food and debris get collected here because of the large surface area of the papillae. As a result, you may end up with a yellow tongue and bad breath, explains internal medicine specialist Dr Tushar Tayal.
Your favourite curry with a lot of turmeric may turn your tongue yellow. Here are some more causes:
• Chewing tobacco
• Poor oral hygiene
• Wearing dentures or false teeth
• Regular alcohol consumption
• Too much tea and coffee consumption
Yellow tongue may also be indicative of certain medical conditions:
Geographic tongue is a harmless condition in which patches on the surface of the tongue are missing papillae, says the expert. These patches are smooth and red, often with slightly raised whitish borders. Geographic tongue sometimes can cause tongue pain and make you more sensitive to certain foods such as spices, salt and sweets. Geographic tongue does not require treatment.
This is a chronic inflammatory condition which can cause whitish yellow, lace-like patches inside the mouth along with ulcers, pain or a burning sensation and swelling and redness. It is an autoimmune condition. Topical or oral corticosteroids may be used for treatment.
Jaundice causes the skin and eyes to turn yellow. It happens when your liver is inflamed and is not able to process bilirubin which then accumulates in the body and may cause yellowish discolouration of the underside of the tongue. You need get treated for jaundice first.
It is a fungal infection caused by the Candida yeast. If you are affected, you may have off-white or yellow patches in the mouth and on the tongue with unpleasant taste or loss of taste, pain and soreness. Anti-fungal medication works well to treat this.
Some medicines such as anti-malaria drugs, oral contraceptives and HIV drugs may cause discolouration of the tongue.
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Dry mouth is marked by a lack of adequate saliva in your mouth which can cause bacteria buildup and lead to yellow patches on your tongue. Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, radiation and chemotherapy can cause dry mouth.
If there is a medical condition, you have to find ways to treat it or manage it. Other ways are:
This is the most important step in preventing and treating yellow tongue. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time, and floss once a day, suggests Dr Tayal. You should also use a tongue scraper or soft-bristled toothbrush to gently remove bacteria and debris from the surface of your tongue.
Smoking can irritate your tongue and make it more susceptible to discolouration. If you are a smoker, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, and it will also help to improve the appearance of your tongue.
Fibre helps to stimulate saliva production, which can help to keep your tongue clean and moist. Aim to eat at least 25 to 35 grams of fibre per day, says the expert. So, start having more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
Hydrogen peroxide has antibacterial properties that can help to kill the bacteria that cause yellow tongue. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide with five parts water, and swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds before rinsing. Doing this once a day can help.
You should check with your doctor if the yellow tongue colour doesn’t go away.