Home Symptoms Yellow Tongue – 7 Possible Causes, Associated Symptoms & Treatment

Yellow Tongue – 7 Possible Causes, Associated Symptoms & Treatment


Yellow discoloration of the tongue is known as yellow tongue.  This is usually harmless and only lasts a short time. Discoloration of the tongue can be caused by a wide range of things. A yellow tongue can also be an indication of an underlying health issue in certain people.

Yellow tongue resolves completely in most people. Self-care and improved dental hygiene are generally enough to solve the problem.

Causes of Yellow Tongue

1. Poor Oral Hygiene

When you don’t brush your teeth often and thoroughly, skin cells and bacteria can build up on the papillae of your tongue. Bacteria release pigments that can turn your tongue yellow. Food, tobacco, and other substances can also get trapped on your tongue and turn it yellow.

2. Jaundice

Bilirubin, a substance produced during the breakdown of red blood cells, accumulates abnormally in the tissues of persons with jaundice. Occasionally, only specific areas of the body, such as the whites of the eyes, become yellowed.

At other times, the entire surface of the skin may acquire a yellow glow or tint. In contrast to many of the other causes of yellow tongue, jaundice requires prompt medical attention and frequent treatment because it may be an indication of life-threatening illnesses such as liver failure.

3. Black Hairy Tongue

This harmless condition happens when the little bumps called papillae that line the tip and sides of your tongue grow larger. Bacteria, dirt, food, and other substances can collect on these bumps and turn them into different colors. Even though “black” is in the name of this disorder, your tongue can turn yellow or other colors before it turns black.

4. Dry Mouth

A dry mouth is caused by a lack of enough saliva in your mouth. Saliva washes bacteria out of your mouth, which helps prevent tooth decay. Medicine side effects, diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome and diabetes, as well as radiation and chemotherapy can all cause your mouth to dry out. Breathing in and out through your mouth while you sleep also contributes to dry mouth.

5. Geographic Tongue

This occurs when regions of papillae on the tongue are absent. Doctors are unsure why this occurs, but it does occasionally run in families. The disorder is so named because the missing patches provide the appearance of a map on the surface of your tongue. The spots are frequently red, but can also turn yellow. They can be painful at times.

6. Oral Thrush

Overgrowth of the bacteria Candida can cause white patches on the tongue that eventually develop a yellow tone.

7. Tobacco Smoke

Tobacco products contain chemicals and poisons that have the potential to discolor or irritate skin cells. Tobacco can cause cells to enlarge, increasing the likelihood that they will trap particles and bacteria.

Associated Symptoms

Yellow tongue, in the majority of cases, generates no symptoms other than the yellow discoloration of the tongue. Associated symptoms of yellow tongue may include:

  • Bad breath
  • Gagging
  • Nausea
  • Taste distortions
  • White patches, film, or coating on the tongue or mucous membranes
  • Sore throat
  • Burning sensation
  • Bumps on the tongue
  • Acid reflux
  • Dry mouth

When To See The Doctor

Inform your doctor promptly if you notice a yellow tongue, yellowish whites of the eyes, or yellow skin. These symptoms could be indicative of a more dangerous underlying illness known as jaundice.

Treatment of Yellow Tongue

Treatment for yellow tongue is unnecessary. If you’re bothered by discoloration on your tongue, try gently brushing it once a day with a solution of 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 5 parts water. Following that, rinse your mouth many times with water.

In most cases, proper oral hygiene practices resolve yellow tongue completely. A toothbrush or tongue scraper may help remove any bacteria or other buildup on the surface of the tongue.

Stopping chewing tobacco or smoking may prevent future tongue discoloration.


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