Home HealthTopics Health Centers Reference Library Research
Join us on Facebook Join us on Facebook Share on Facebook

Mouth Diseases

White coating on tongue

01/10/2007

Question:

IS IT NORMAL TO HAVE SOME WHITE CAOTING ON A PERSONS TONGUE I HAVE SOME IN AREA OF MY TONGUE IN THE BACK BUT IT WON`T COME OFF. I ALSO HAVE A DRY MOUTH ALL THE TIME BECAUSE OF MY MEDCINE I TAKE COULD THAT BE THE SOURCE OF THE PROBLEM.?

Answer:

The white "coating" probably represents the normal layer of dead keratinized cells that are formed on the top surface of the tongue.  Usually this can be removed with a tongue scraper, but it is not necessary to do so.  More information about coated tongue can be found at the website http://www.aaomp.org/public/hairy-tongue.php.

Many drugs can cause a dry mouth, and while the drugs don't directly cause the coating, people with dry mouths may tend to eat a diet that is softer and has a more liquid texture.  Because the keratin on the top of the tongue is usually removed by rougher foods as we chew and swallow, if the person's diet doesn't include these foods, the keratin may pile up in this area faster than it is scraped off and swallowed.  If your tongue seems different than this description and what you find on the website, then you should be seen by an oral pathologist (a specialist in oral diseases).

For more information:

Go to the Mouth Diseases health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD Carl M Allen, DDS, MSD
Professor Emeritus of Oral Pathology
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University