Why is my tongue yellow? The key causes – and it’s not just smoking
Ruth Langsford does tongue exercises to prevent snoring
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Poor dental hygiene is often to blame for significant changes to colours and textures within our mouths. Our teeth, tongue and gums require daily cleansing to keep us healthy, but there are some conditions that can affect our tongue despite having a good oral routine. A yellow tongue could indicate a more serious underlying condition – and these are eight possible causes of this strange symptom.
Why is my tongue yellow?
Our tongues come into contact with vast amounts of substances each day which could well be to blame for a yellow-hue lingering on your tongue.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Dr Paul Ettlinger, GP at The London General Practice said: “There are a number of possible causes of why someone’s tongue may appear yellow.
“These include poor oral hygiene, tobacco, thrush, some mouthwashes and some medications e.g. antibiotics, lansoprazole, iron salts and blood thinners.
“Also mouth breathing – (so those that are more inclined to breathe through their mouth and not their nose).”
Poor oral hygiene
Sticking to the recommended two minutes, twice a day should keep you from experiencing a yellow tongue if it’s caused by oral hygiene.
Forgetting to keep on top of regular brushing, flossing and rinsing could lead to trapped food substances lingering in your mouth.
Trapped particles will harbour pigment-releasing bacteria which can quickly turn your tongue yellow
There is generally no pain associated with this cause of a yellow tongue as it is simply a result of trapped bacteria lurking on your tongue, teeth and gums.
Dry mouth and mouth breathing
Cold and flu season is here which leaves many of us breathless when battling a blocked nose.
Dr Paul Ettlinger added: “Dry mouth reduces the saliva production which results in the risk of bacterial overgrowth.
“The bacteria and food particles remain on the lining of the tongue (as saliva helps to clear the extra bacterium on the tongues surface).”
Tooth decay, bad breath and a yellowing tongue can all be caused by a dried out mouth which is common in those suffering from:
- Sjorgen’s syndrome
- Cold and flu symptoms
Medicine that contains bismuth
According to the medical website Healthline, Pepto-Bismol and other bismuth containing medicines have been proven to cause a yellow tongue.
This ingredient is commonly found in gastrointestinal medications.
When bismuth reacts with sulphur in the mouth, it can stain the tongue leaving a yellow hue.
Bismuth has even been known to leave tongues orange or black due to the sulphur reaction.
Mouthwash containing oxidising agents
Much like bismuth, mouthwash containing peroxide, witch hazel or menthol can also turn your tongue different colours.
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This condition is something of a medical mystery as the cause is unknown, says Healthline.
It happens when patches of papillae are missing from the tongue, making it look like a map.
Patches often present themselves as red but can also be yellow and slightly painful to experience.
There are many medical arguments against the use of tobacco and poor oral hygiene is just one of them.
Not only will tobacco smoke reduce the whiteness of your teeth, but the chemicals will make your tongue turn more yellow with each puff of smoke.
Black hairy tongue
This sounds terrifying but black hairy tongue is in fact a harmless cause of a yellow tongue.
Bumpy papillae which line the tip and sides of the tongue can grow larger and collect bacteria, dirt, food and other substances – making the papillae turn different colours.
This condition presents itself as yellow and bumpy before it turns black.
Jaundice is the most concerning cause of a yellow tongue as it indicates liver damage.
This condition turns skin and the whites of your eyes yellow, signalling that the liver is damaged and can’t process the waste product bilirubin.
This yellow pigment is produced when red blood cells break down and will build up in cases of jaundice turning your tongue, eyes and skin yellow.
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