White patches on tongue, or a completely white tongue, have several possible causes. However they are completely different in nature, so first, take a good look at your tongue and see exactly where the white patch on tongue is, or if you have a completely white tongue.
If the top surface of your tongue is pretty much completely white, or grey-white, then it is likely to be a coating on tongue that can be removed by brushing. This may seem strange if you have not brushed your tongue before. But brushing your tongue morning and night after brushing your teeth will remove a whole lot of bacteria build-up from your tongue.
If you have white patches on your tongue, you may have some bad breath from time to time. The best way to tackle this is with a TheraBreath Starter Kit. This will help you to clean your tongue well, and eliminate any bad breath.
This type of white tongue is completely harmless. But there are some other causes of white patches on tongue that are worth getting your dentist to look at:
It is a reaction to a long-standing irritation of the surface of the soft tissues of the tongue. Constant rubbing or irritation causes the cells in the affected area to multiply more than usual, leading to the formation of a white patch. Although this is not dangerous on its own, a leukoplakia can be the starting point for a cancer to develop later on.
The most common causes are rubbing from rough teeth, rough fillings, or dentures that don't fit properly and rub against your cheek or tongue. Smokers are also more affected than non-smokers.
A leukoplakia is usually harmless, and goes away a few weeks after the cause of the irritation is removed.
This is quite different to the white tongue described above, where the whole tongue is white or grey, but brushing with a toothbrush gets rid of.
Oral thrush is most common in babies and older folk, in particular denture wearers. People with diabetes and people using a steroid inhaler for asthma or lung disease are also more likely to get thrush.
Oral thrush also occurs after a course of antibiotics for some other problem. The antibiotics can upset the balance of bacteria in the mouth, allowing the Candida albicans to grow more quickly and get a foot-hold.
To get a firm diagnosis, your doctor can take a small swab from your mouth. If a yeast infection is confirmed by the lab results, your doctor will likely prescribe an anti-fungal such as Fluconazole. This should settle it down within a few days.
image courtesy Dr. John Doran, www.exodontia.com
Again, there is evidence that in some cases, a chronic irritation may be a cause. Some specialists will advise replacing any old amalgam fillings that are close to the area on the tongue or cheek. I have done this myself a few times and always seen the white patch disappear within 4 weeks of replacing the filling.
Doctors are otherwise often unable to pin down the exact cause of this condition, which may resolve on its own. If it becomes uncomfortable, however, like an ulcer, then you should get it checked by a dentist.
So there are a number of possible causes of white patches on tongue. The first step is to try brushing it off with a toothbrush. If it comes off after a minute or two of firm brushing, then it is likely that your white tongue was just a coating. If it doesn't come off, or leaves a red, raw surface underneath before re-forming within a day, go to your dentist for a check. We don't like white patches on tongue!