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Mouth Diseases

Orange tongue

03/11/2008

Question:

I have been trying to find out the cause of an orange tongue. It is not due to any colored food I ate. It has now been 3 days with the discoloration. Brushing helps but does not remove completely. You mentioned previously some sort of lichenoid reaction in another instance of orange tongue. What would cause this? I recently recovered from the flu but did not take tamiflu so I don`t think it could be an oral fungus but am not sure of any other underlying cause.

Answer:

It is possible that this discoloration is caused by one of the normal bacterial organisms that live in the mouth. There are many species of bacteria in the mouth, and some of them are able to produce pigments such as melanin. Depending on how much melanin is present and the type of melanin that is produced, there can be a range of colors that would probably include an orangish hue.

A variety of factors, such as mouthwashes and antibiotics, could influence the prevalence of a particular species of bacteria. Some mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine could cause staining of the teeth and oral tissues. If there is no pain or tenderness, then you shouldn't worry about it. I know of no "lichenoid" lesion that would produce an orange color.

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Response by:

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