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Dental and Oral Health Center

Yellow coating on tongue

07/31/2007

Question:

For a while now, I have had a yellow coating on my tongue. I was given medication in the case it was a yeast infection, and it didn`t go away. I then tried scraping and brushing it all off. Though this works initially, the yellow coating reappeared the next day. I even stopped taking my nose spray, which I think is the cause of this, and started using Listerine mouthwash. How does one get rid of this?

Answer:

There are a variety of possible factors that can lead to changes in the color of the upper surface of the tongue. These include:

The discoloration is typically harmless, although it can be dramatic and alarming. If you are using a chewable form of vitamin supplement, you might try switching to a capsule/tablet that you swallow with water. Switching toothpaste or mouthwash formulations may be helpful. Finally, gentle brushing of the tongue with a toothbrush (you don`t need a tonguebrush, although these are available) once a day can often control the color by removing the excess skin cells on the papilla (small, hair-like structures) of the tongue. This layer of cells is where most pigments or colored materials accumulate.

Incidentally, several tongue colors have been reported, including yellow, green, brown and black.

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Related Resources:

Oral Conditions (American Academy of Oral & Maxillofacial Pathology)
Tongue discoloration

For more information:

Go to the Dental and Oral Health Center health topic, where you can:

Response by:

D Stanley Sharples, DDS
Clinical Assistant Professor of Primary Care Dentistry
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University