Yellow tongue is a yellow discoloration of the tongue. In most cases, this condition is harmless and temporary. However, it can be a sign of an underlying disease in other cases.
A healthy tongue should be pink and should not be coated in anything. The texture and colour of your tongue can tell a lot about your internal health.
For clues about problems in your mouth, stick out your tongue and look in the mirror. A healthy tongue should be pink and covered with small nodules (papillae). Any deviation from your tongue’s normal appearance, or any pain, may be a cause for concern.
Yellow tongue occurs when your papillae become enlarged and bacteria in your mouth produces coloured pigments.
What are the causes of yellow tongue?
Oral thrush is an overgrowth of the bacteria Candida that causes white patches on the tongue. These often, however, turn yellow over time. Oral thrush can be a sign of HIV but it needs to be made clear that the answer to the question ‘does a yellow tongue mean HIV?’ is an emphatic NO!
Here are the other common reasons of yellow tongue:
- Poor dental hygeine can cause yellow tongue. Dead skin or food particles accumulate on your tongue together with yeast or bacteria.
- Smoking is a very common cause of yellow tongue. This is because of the nicotine build up and is most recognisable by your tongue being yellow at the back. Though Smoking is the most common culprit, yellow tongue can also be caused by chewing tobacco.
- The use of some antibiotics can cause yellow tongue due to an imbalance of microbes, which causes bacteria or yeast to thrive.
- Eczema is known to weaken the body’s immune system allowing harmless bacteria to grow on the tongue. This can result in eczema sufferers having a yellow tongue.
- The inflaming of the gastric lining, associated with gastric conditions, can cause yellow tongue.
- Yellow tongue coating is one of the clinical signs for diabetes mellitus according to traditional East Asian medicine.
- Your mouthwash could itself be a problem for you. Do not use it for a few days and see if the problem disappears. If it turns out that your mouthwash is responsible for your yellow tongue, change it to a different one.
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 your yellow tongue is caused by jaundice.
You should call your doctor if you have other symptoms of jaundice, infection, or liver damage, such as:
- abdominal pain
- blood in your stools
- easy bruising and bleeding
- the yellow color doesn’t go away after two weeks
- your skin or your eyeballs are also yellow
- your tongue hurts
What are the treatments for yellow tongue?
If the yellow tint does not go away on its own, then you should try the following:
- Try gently brushing your tongue with a solution that is 1 part hydrogen peroxide and 5 parts water once a day. Rinse your mouth with water afterward several times. This could help with you with reversing the discolouration of your tongue.
- Use a tongue scraper to gently remove dead cells, food, and other debris from the surface.
- Increase the amount of fiber in your diet, which will reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth.
- If the yellowish tint is due to oral thrush, then doctors will usually prescribe anti-thrush drugs, such as nystatin or miconazole in the form of drops, gel, or lozenges.
- Chew sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production.
- If you breathe through your mouth at night, turn on a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your bedroom. This will prevent your mouth from becoming dry, hence, your tongue will remain hydrated.
- Stay well hydrated throughout the day.
- Adding food-grade baking soda to a toothbrush and scrubbing the tongue, teeth, and gums may help reduce the bacteria that cause yellow tongue.
- Use a straw to have cold drinks.
What is the correct way to brush your tongue?
Start by reaching to the back of the tongue, and then work forward toward the opening of the mouth. Brush the entire top surface of the tongue using gentle pressure, and finish by rinsing with water.
You can clean your tongue either before or after you brush your teeth; no studies support a particular cleaning order.
Rinse the tongue brush or tongue scraper off, after you use it to remove bacteria and any food debris from the areas of the tongue you cleaned.
You can do this most effectively while brushing your teeth by spitting out excess toothpaste after cleaning your teeth. Do it before rinsing so that your mouth and toothbrush still have toothpaste residue on them.
If your tongue remains yellow after a week’s time, go in to see your doctor or dentist to check what is going on.