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Tongue Coating: Too Much, Too Little And Just Right

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

The tongue has multiple functions. It helps you taste, chew, and swallow food. Your tongue even assists with speech. But did you know that your tongue can indicate dental issues? Specifically, the coating on your tongue. Read more to learn what different amounts of coating on your tongue could mean for your oral health.

Too Much

When was the last time you looked at your tongue? The appearance of your tongue can tell you a lot about your oral health. For instance, the appearance of a white film can be an indication of bad breath. When food particles, bacteria, and debris get trapped in the papillae (the tiny dots on the surface of the tongue), it causes a white coating and an unpleasant smell. Good oral hygiene is the best way to avoid and treat this. Take time to gently clean your tongue with a tongue scraper after brushing your teeth.

Thick white coating or patches of white on the tongue may be a sign of oral thrush, an infection caused by an overgrowth of the candida fungus. Leukoplakia is another condition marked by a white-coated tongue, which can be an early indicator of oral cancer. Be sure to speak with your dentist or medical professional if white spots on your mouth do not resolve on their own within two weeks. They can determine the cause of your white tongue and recommend the best treatment option.

Too Little

Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a condition where the salivary glands in the mouth don't produce enough saliva to keep it moist. A dry tongue with a grooved texture and a change of taste are common symptoms of dry mouth. Home remedies and lifestyle changes can offer some relief. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, and chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production. You could even add a humidifier to a room in your house to increase moisture. If your condition is severe, your dentist may prescribe mouthrinse or other medication to alleviate dryness.

Just Right

Saliva in the mouth and on the tongue helps you taste and chew food.

Your tongue should have a light coating of saliva that gives it a natural sheen. Here are some care tips to help you keep this part of your mouth healthy:

  • Drink water.
  • Brush your teeth and clean between the teeth with an interdental cleaning device.
  • Clean your tongue with a tongue scraper.
  • Include a mouthrinse in your oral hygiene routine.
  • Avoid consuming spicy, acidic, or hot food and beverages as they can irritate the tongue.

Your tongue might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about your oral health. But it's something you should keep an eye on. We recommend examining your tongue when you brush your teeth, which is a good way to determine any issues. Maintaining good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups are essential for staying on top of any tongue issues.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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