Yellow Tongue: Causes, Treatment


What is the yellow tongue?

A yellow tongue is sometimes associated with an illness but more often associated with a change in diet or lifestyle.

What are the symptoms of yellow tongue? 

Symptoms vary depending on the cause of your yellow tongue. Some possible symptoms include: 

  • Burning sensation in the mouth. 
  • Red patches inside of your mouth- Spots on your tongue- Swollen or cracked tongue 
  • Bad breath: If you have a yellow tongue, your breath will most likely smell bad. Sometimes, however, the tongue will have a normal appearance but still have an odor.
  • Loss of appetite: If you have a yellow tongue, you may become nauseous or feel full after eating only a small amount of food. 
  • Dry mouth: This can cause bad breath and sores on the inside of your mouth, which might bleed when irritated. 
  • White patches on your tongue: If you have a white coat that does not rub off, you should see a dentist.
  • Swelling of the anterior part of your tongue 
  • If you observe Cracks or peeling skin on the back of the front of your tongue, it indicates a yellow tongue.
  • Discolored (darker) tongue: If your tongue does not have its normal pink color or if it has white patches on top of the darkened area, it may be time to see your doctor. 

If your symptoms are more severe and include: Vomiting or diarrhea, loss of appetite or weight loss, Headache, Fever, Rash Night sweats, Swollen thyroid gland, Changes in voice Seizures, You should seek medical treatment immediately. These can be signs that you are suffering from a severe condition. 

Why is my tongue yellow?

There are many causes of the yellow tongue; they include:

  1. Bacterial overgrowth of the tongue can cause a thick coating that's yellow or white. A buildup of bacteria and dead cells forms on the top surface of the tongue. Also known as a hairy tongue, this condition is unsightly but harmless and usually resolves within about two weeks. 
  2. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums and can be caused by plaque buildup. The mucus membranes lining the mouth and tongue may also become inflamed and change color.
  3. An infection in the tonsils (tonsillitis) or peritonsillar tissue (quinsy). 
  4. Brassy yellow tongue, a condition caused by a buildup of bacteria and tartar on the back of the tongue. It's also known as a red, orange, or brown tongue; it's usually accompanied by bad breath. 
  5. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking coffee, and tea can lead to a buildup of yellowish stains on the mouth's surfaces.
  6. Another cause is thrush, a yeast infection caused by the overgrowth of yeast in the mouth.
  7. Cancerous or precancerous lesions.
  8. Side effect of some medications, such as antibiotics taken orally, high blood pressure medication containing reserpine, anti-ulcer drug-containing cimetidine (Tagamet), and chemotherapy.
  9. Pregnancy may increase yeast and bacteria in the mouth and cause a temporary change in taste.
  10. Diabetes can affect the amount of glucose (sugar) in the saliva and lead to oral thrush.
  11. Dry mouth or xerostomia, where there isn't enough saliva in the mouth to keep it moist. 
  12. Lichen planus, also known as lichenoid tissue reaction or lupus erythematosus, features small white lesions on the tongue and gums that can cause irritation and pain when eating hot food or drinking hot liquids. 
  13. Herpes simplex virus, which causes cold sores and blisters on the lips and mouth.
  14. Stress or anxiety, which can cause a change in your taste and smell perception, leading to an altered sense of taste (ageusia) or smell (parosmia).
  15. Exposure to irritating substances such as smoke, spicy foods.

How to treat yellow tongue?

  • Treatment depends on the cause of your condition. You may need to modify your diet or stop using certain medications if they've caused temporary discoloration. If there are deep grooves on the surface of your tongue, these will have to be smoothed out by removing the top layer of cells. This is typically done with a tongue scraper.
  • Avoid brushing your tongue because it may cause irritation and worsen discoloration. Also, avoid using harsh abrasives on your tongue, which can scrape away healthy tissue. If you have persistent problems with yellow or white tongue or notice any other changes in your mouth, make an appointment with your dentist or a gum disease specialist.
  • Don't use toothpaste that contains hydrogen peroxide, which can irritate your tongue and cause discoloration. Also, avoid harsh household cleansers and abrasive scrubs for cleaning the skin on your face, as they can irritate the tongue and cause discoloration.
  • Drink a lot of water to keep your mouth moist and help with the healing process.
  • Avoid smoking, as this can discolor the tongue.
  • You may also want to ask for professional dental cleaning from the dentist every six months, as well as regular checkups at least once a year.
  • It is also possible to buy toothpaste that will help the yellow tinge on your tongue. These are sometimes recommended by dentists but can be expensive and make your tongue white, which isn't always an improvement. 
  • Zinc supplements may improve symptoms of psoriasis (an autoimmune disease) in some people if taken for about three months. 

    How long does it take to treat yellow tongue? 

    In most cases, it takes about two to four weeks for your tongue's normal color to return by itself. Still, you may need to modify your diet or stop using certain medications if they've caused temporary discoloration. If there are deep grooves on the surface of your tongue, these will have to be smoothed out by removing the top layer of cells. This is typically done with a tongue scraper.

    What happens if you don't treat yellow tongue?

    • If the cause of your tongue discoloration isn't treated, it can lead to scarring or loss of the surface layers of cells. In some cases, this may cause permanent changes in appearance and result in a condition known as black hairy tongue. 
    • If you don't treat the cause of your yellow tongue, it won't necessarily go away on its own. You may need to see your dentist or doctor if there are persistent changes in how food tastes or smells, which could indicate an underlying medical condition. Severe tongue discoloration can also lead to difficulty speaking or pronouncing words and may interfere with your ability to eat and swallow properly.


    The most common cause of yellow tongue is dietary habits, especially the use of spices. Other causes are bacterial infection, fungal infections, viral infections, tobacco smoking, and allergies to certain foods. The yellow tongue can affect anyone at any age, but it usually appears in people over 40 years old.

    You can treat your yellow tongue by changing your diet or stopping the use of some medications that give your tongue a yellow appearance. If the cause is deep grooves on the surface of your tongue, these will have to be smoothed out by removing the top layer of cells (typically with a tongue scraper).

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