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Yellow Tongue: Symptoms, Causes And Treatments

For countless reasons, the human body is remarkable. When something is wrong, the body sends you signals letting you know. A sprained ankle can swell to the size of a grapefruit. A potential tooth issue may reveal itself the next time you take a cold drink. But what if you look in the mirror and discover you have a yellow tongue?

Why Is My Tongue Yellow?

A healthy tongue is typically pink so seeing some other color on a portion of your tongue should set off an alarm that something might not be quite right. In most cases, though, a yellow tongue is nothing to fear, according to the Mayo Clinic. It usually results from poor oral hygiene as food and bacteria can collect on the tongue's papillae. If the papillae become enlarged, bacteria found in the mouth can generate colored pigments.

Yellow Tongue Symptoms and Causes

In addition to poor oral hygiene, other possible causes include:

  • Dry mouth/mouth breathing. Dry mouth occurs when there isn't an adequate saliva supply in the mouth to eliminate bacteria. Breathing through your mouth while you sleep can also contribute to dry mouth.
  • Geographic tongue. This occurs when a tongue is missing patches of papillae.
  • Black hairy tongue. Papillae on the tip and sides of the tongue grow in size and collect food and bacteria particles. The tongue eventually turns black in color but can appear yellow at first, according to Columbia University.
  • Bismuth. Any medicine that contains bismuth can change the tongue's color.


A yellow coating on the tongue can also be an indication of jaundice, or, too much bilirubin in the body, notes the National Institutes of Health. Jaundice is a condition quite common in newborns but adults are susceptible to it, as well. It can be the sign of a serious condition such as liver disease, blood disease, or a bile duct blockage. Consult your physician if you think you're jaundice.

Treatments for Yellow Tongue

The Mayo Clinic recommends brushing your tongue once a day with a solution that's one part hydrogen peroxide and five parts water. Also, drink plenty of water daily to avoid dehydration. Be sure to include plenty of fruits and veggies in your diet. These fiber-rich foods will help eliminate bacteria build-up on the tongue. Next, kick the smoking habit. Contact your doctor if any of those treatments don't seem to be working after a week has passed.

A quality oral care regimen includes brushing at least twice a day complemented by flossing. While you focus on keeping your teeth clean, don't neglect caring for your tongue as well. Try using the Colgate 360° Enamel Health Whitening toothbrush. Not only do the polishing spiral bristles help whiten teeth by removing surface stains from enamel, but the cheek and tongue cleaner removes bacteria to keep your mouth healthy.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.