White Patches on Tongue, Spots, White Coating on Tongue, Causes, Treatment

White patches on tongue in babies, children or adults may come and go. White patches on the tongue may also keep spreading and won’t go away for several months, years depending on the underlying cause. White patches or coating on tongue, spots, blisters may appear at the back, on the side or under the tongue. Here are some causes symptoms, home remedies and treatment.

White patches on the tongue may keep spreading
White patches on the tongue may keep spreading

White patches on tongue can be harmless, but they could also indicate symptoms of certain diseases. Below, we discuss the causes of white patches on the tongue, with signs such as painful patches, white spots on side of tongue and patch under and on side of tongue. Pictures of white coating on tongue of baby included.

Commonly asked questions that are answered here are;

  • What Causes White Patches on Tongue?
  • Why do I have white patches on the tongue and sore throat?
  • White patches, coating on tongue that come and go
  • White patches on side, under and back of tongue
  • What are the treatments of white patches on tongue?

You may also looks at;

1. Receding gums

2. Lump Under Jaw

Symptoms of white patches, coating on tongue and relation to other conditions

Some cases of having a white tongue tend to be directly attached to other alarming situations i.e having white patches or coating with swollen glands, swollen gums, swollen lymph nodes or receding gums.

Seek medical advice in this cases. Below are several symptoms that either point to this condition or relate to other diseases that cause it (underlying problem).

  1. White patches may occur in the tongue without pain
  2. Loss of taste or a lower sense of taste on the tongue
  3. In some cases, white patches may appear on the tongue, gums and throat at the same time
  4. Some white patches on the tongue may not be easily scraped off while some may come off just by touching. All this depends on the cause.
  5. White patches on tongue may be accompanied by fever in some cases
  6. A burning sensation with white spots on the tongue
  7. White patches on tongue may also be accompanied with tonsils
  8. Bad breath may be experienced
  9. Metallic taste on the mouth may also accompany this tongue condition
  10. Bleeding on the tongue may be experienced with the white patches
  11. Some patients tend to have a dry mouth with the white patches or coating on the tongue
  12. On the contrary, patients may also experience excessive saliva discharge or drooling in babies

What are white patches or coating on the tongue and misconceptions?

White Patches on Tongue
White Patches on Tongue

Having white spots, patches and white coating on tongue is generally said to be of no harm at all. Your doctor might recommend drinking a lot of water because the dots and patches on your tongue may be caused by dehydration. However, there could be more to it than just the lack of enough water in the body.

When the little white dots on your tongue tend to grow bigger and soon into a white consistent or inconsistent coating on tongue, or what you may see as a white patch on your tongue, then this is likely to indicate an underlying organic disease or illness that should be addressed.

Below, we will look at the different symptom manifestations of white patches on tongue and cheeks, and further look at the causes and treatments or best remedies. First, what causes white patches on the tongue?

Causes of White Patches on Tongue

what causes white patches on the tongue? This is a question that many parents would want to answer for their baby’s sake. Adults also experience these episodes.

According to mayo clinic, “White tongue is the result of an overgrowth and swelling of the fingerlike projections (papillae) on the surface of your tongue. The appearance of a white coating is caused by debris, bacteria and dead cells getting lodged between the enlarged and sometimes inflamed papillae.”

Before treatment, it is good to understand the causes to avoid white coating, patches on tongue that come and go. Here is a list of the causes of the white patches on the strongest muscle on the human body.

1. Oral thrush

This is also called candida or candidiasis, which is identified as a yeast infection that grows in the mouth, causing white coating on the tongue. The tongue ends up with one or a few white patches that look like cottage cheese in terms of their consistency.

White patches on tongue caused by oral thrush tend to be softer compared to those caused by leukoplakia as discussed below. White coating or patches that bleed may also be easily associated with oral thrush. Seek medical advice.

2. Diabetes

Most people suffering from diabetes, and those who suffer from asthma and inhale steroids as a form of medication for the lung disease may also show symptoms of white patches on their tongues.

3. Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia causes white coating on tongue
Leukoplakia causes white coating on tongue

Leukoplakia causes white coating on tongue. When the cells in a person’s mouth grow excessively fast, the condition is called leukoplakia. This is what causes white patches on tongue and other parts of the mouth.

4. Syphilis infection

Syphilis is a STD and that is why most people consider white patches on tongue an STD. If contracted due to having oral sex, syphilis may cause small white dots on tongue that are not painful.

These can spread into white dots on lips. When the dots are left untreated, they may end up causing syphilitic leukoplakia, which are white plaques on the tongue.

5. Dehydration

Dehydration is also associated with white patching on the tongue. Dehydration symptoms on the mouth may include mouth dryness and sticky mouth that may be accompanied by bad breath in most patients. Dry mouth may also cause white spots on the tongue.

6. Smoking

Research shows that most tobacco smokers tent to develop white patches on the tongue, cheeks and the mouth in general. Out of four smokers, three are likely to suffer from leukoplakia.

The use of tobacco as one of the major and leading cause of white patches on tongue due the fact that it causes leukoplakia and also causes a dry mouth which causes white patches on the tongue and mouth in general.

7. Oral Cancer

Some of this white patches may be cancerous and should never be taken lightly. Watch out for small patches that won’t go away, may be turning red and keep spreading.

“Your risk of oral cancer is increased even after the patches have been removed. Many of the risk factors for leukoplakia are also risk factors for oral cancer. Oral cancer can form alongside leukoplakia” Source Mayo Clinic

8. Geographic tongue condition

Geographic tongue condition
Geographic tongue condition

Geographic tongue condition also known as benign migratory glossitis or erythema migrans occurs on the tongue as well as other areas of the mouth. This benign condition is not considered to be cancerous.

This condition is not common in children and tends to be popular among adults. In fact, it is noted to be common among women than men.

Below are some of the symptoms that point to this condition in relation to white patches on tongue.

  1. Irregular red patches on the tongue that tend to have a light colored or white border
  2. This patches may vary in shape and size sometimes even color
  3. They may come and go but in some cases, they may tend to just shift from one area of the tongue to the other
  4. Extra burning sensation that may be painful and this is easily felt while taking acidic foods, smoking or when using a toothpaste when brushing the teeth.

9. Dipping tobacco

Dipping tobacco is the common type of tobacco that not smoked but normally dipped inside the lower lip and the gum. It is then held there to get its effects. This is a good explanation for white patches on the tip of the tongue and the sides.

10. Breathing problems

Breathing through the mouth due to blocked nose or other problems results into a dry mouth. Dry mouth will there for easily prevent the presence of saliva in the mouth. Saliva in the mouth also plays a great role in moistening the mouth. Saliva also rids the mouth of bacterial and fungal infections that may cause white patches and coating in the mouth.

11. Cancer of the tongue

This is a type of cancer that originates from the tongue cells before manifesting with visible symptoms. Treatment of advanced tongue cancer may leave one with difficulty in eating or even speaking.

There are several cancers that may affect the tongue, but tongue cancer tends to originate on the flat cells that are alienated on the surface of the tongue.

Tongue cancer is divided into two categories depending on the area affected;

Oral cancer on the tongue
Oral cancer on the tongue

1. Oral tongue cancer

This is always visible and the effects and symptoms are easily recognized by the patients. It is advisable to always keep a constant check on your tongue since this type may be treated at its easy stages by simple surgery.

2. Hypo-pharyngeal tongue cancer

This type of tongue cancer affects the base of the tongue and is only visible and easily detected at its advanced stage. However, careful individuals who keep a constant check on their tongue may notice it early enough.

Hypo-pharyngeal tongue cancer spreads to the neck by affecting the lymph nodes on the neck and is normally associated with the HPV(papillomavirus).  Treatment may involve chemotherapy or radiation therapy as deemed fit by the doctor after a proper diagnosis.

12. Canker sore

Canker sores tend to be responsible for white spot on the tongue. This may be sore, painful and cannot be easily scraped off or removed. They also have a red halo that may be inflamed and may also explain white bump on tongue. This condition is treatable under proper diagnosis.

13. Spots on tongue or bumps

A white coating on tongue or patches that may cover the whole tongue in some cases may be as a result of allergic reaction. White spots on tongue in many cases will tend to start on the side before spreading to the center.

Generally, this white spots or bumps on the tongue that are raised will tend to take the color of any food that is consumed. i.e. If the food is yellow, they may appear to be yellow, if white they turn white.

In most cases patients may have bumps or spots on the tongue caused by other conditions and mistake them for simple white patches or coating on the tongue.

14. Hepatitis C

Individuals who have this conditions tend to develop white spots on tongue and this is always considered to be an allergic reaction or a side effect of this condition. This may even turn cancerous if left un-attended to.

15. Antibiotics

During medication or using some antibiotics that may have been prescribed for other body ailments, white patches on tongue may be experienced. This is in most cases is always an allergic reaction that may trigger an oral thrush. Such cases, the patches may tend to disappear once you are done with the causative drug.

16. Mouth ulcers

Sore on the tongue may also be from a burn caused by hot drinks
Sore on the tongue may also be from a burn caused by hot drinks

Mouth ulcers are best described as soreness in the mouth and is caused when the mucosa of the mouth is infected leading to its inflammation. Mucosal inflammation may be caused by bacterial infections, viral infections or even oral cancer. This may be accompanied by white patches and tends to be common in adults.

17. Oral lichen planus

Oral lichen planus is a severe autoimmune disorder that may also cause white patches on one’s tongue. Such conditions are best diagnosed and treated by a doctor.

18. Tongue piercing

After having a tongue piercing, you may experience white spots on the tongue or inside the mouth. This in most cases is considered as an infection on the piercing.

Cleaning the back of the tongue may also be a challenge for many individuals. This is due to the pain especially in the first few days after piercing. This may result in to a white coating behind and around the piecing.

Try using safe mouth wash in this cases and seek medical attention as this may also cause several other conditions that may be accompanied by serious bath breath.

19. Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seed are best prescribed by nutritionist due to the fact that they are a rich source of vitamin, mineral and fatty acids essentials. They are rich in vitamin E, Vitamin B1 and it is also a good and a healthy source of copper.

Eating sunflower seed is one of the common causes of white coating or patches on the tongue.

Individuals who take too much of this may experience white bumps or patches on the tongue but this is treatable. It is advisable not to take too much of the seeds at a time to avoid the side effects.

20. Acid reflux or gerd

This is a condition that has white patches with acidic taste in the mouth as its symptoms. This condition may also cause white bumps on the back of the tongue

Other causative factors

Other factors that may be responsible for that white patch on tongue include; Strep throat, tonsillectomy, Chinese medicine, Cottage cheese, Cold, Stress or panic, Pregnancy or early pregnancy, pineapple, Adderall and measles.

In cases of measles, white spots appear on the mouth as part of the final symptoms after the fever, experiencing running nose with sore eyes. Measles may also have the tongue covered with a thick pasty coat. Seek medical treatment for measles and do not treat it at home.

White Patches on Tongue Pictures

White spots on the tongue
White spots on the tongue

Pictures help identify many infections that show physical symptoms, such as the white dots, patches, coating and white spots on the tongue. Although the conditions may differ, it is easy to identify the discomfort in the mouth when you suffer from any of the causes discussed above.

Transient lingual papillitis
Transient lingual papillitis

Pictures of white patching on tongue are clear to distinguish between a dangerous problem and a harmless one.

  1. From most photos of white areas on tongue, the patches are consistent and cover an area completely, leaving the other part of the tongue without any patches or dots.
  2. For other people with the problem, the pictures may show slightly different symptoms, such as white dots on tongue pictures.
  3. You may also have a look at pictures of shiny white dots on the tongue and mouth. They all indicate the same problem.
  4. Some patches spread on other parts of the mouth, so you will have white patches on mouth, cheeks tongue, and dots on throat.
    White bumps on the back of the tongue
    White bumps on the back of the tongue

All these depict various symptoms, but some pictures show slightly different situations such as white patches under tongue, white patches on side of tongue and toddlers having white patches on their tongues. Let’s look at each of these different signs carefully.

White Patch on Side of Tongue

symptoms of patching and coating may be experienced under the tongue. According to WikiAnswers, this “could be a complication of AIDS.” However, there are many causes of white coating under the tongue. Some of them may be benign and may not require any treatment – meaning that they will go way on their own.

Experts say that “…a few require a biopsy for a definitive diagnosis as they can be potentially dangerous and even if they look harmless may not be!” [HealthTap]. Therefore, if you have been having the white patch coating under your tongue for more than 2 weeks, see a dentist for a diagnosis. Any of the causes listed above may be a cause of the dots and coating.

White Patch on Side of Tongue

Below are some common questions that are frequently asked when one has white dots, patches, coating or spots on the side of the tongue

  • Are white patches on side of tongue cancer?
  • I have a painful white patch on side of tongue, should I see a doctor?
  • Is the side of tongue patch an STD?
  • What is this sign and symptom for?

A general practitioner may rule that the white patches on tongue that come and go are caused by leukoplakia as seen in the causes above, but it is important that you get a biopsy first because some of these coatings, dots and patches may come and go.

Whether the patch on side of tongue is small or large does not mean it is cancer on your tongue, neither does it signify being benign. It could be just as dangerous as you can expect. Your doctor will diagnose and administer treatment appropriate to the diagnosis results.

Trauma may be one of the causes of intraoral white patches that may appear on the tongue, but care must be taken especially when it is believed that immunologic conditions, malignant and benign tumors are the cause of the patches and spots on side of tongue.

White Patches on Back of Tongue

According to doctors on HealthTap, “any lumps or white patches on back of tongue could be precancerous.” However, some people get this symptom when they have a sore throat.

Geographic tongue, papillitis and yeast infection are some of the common cause of the coating on the back of tongue.

It is best to have your oral cavity examined by a specialist doctor before concluding on any cause, symptom and treatments to get rid of white spots on back of tongue. Therefore, I would advise you to book an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible.

White Patches on Baby Tongue (Toddler)

Toddlers or babies who breastfeed may also show symptoms of white spots and dots on their tongues. White patches on baby tongue is commonly oral thrush, a fungal infection that spreads in the mouth and can form white dots or patches on lips, in cheeks and may even spread into the baby’s throat.

If the baby is breastfeeding, it could also mean that milk residue remains on the tongue of the baby. In such as case, “gently touch a patch with a clean finger. If it easily rubs away, it’s probably just milk residue.” [BabyCenter]

If you suspect that your toddler is suffering from oral thrush because of the white spots on gums, tongue and mouth, see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Any white coating or patches on the baby’s tongue should be observed especially when they continue spreading.

Home remedies to get rid of white patches on tongue and Treatment

Intense patches and coating on the tongue
Intense patches and coating on the tongue

Do not go for any over the counter treatments to get rid of white patches on your tongue. These could be dangerous or ineffective. Some people prefer removing the patches with their hands or using a q-tip, but it is important to see a physician to help you get rid of the white spots on the.

1. More water intake or re-hydration

Avoid dehydration because it may cause your tongue to have the white lesions. Drink enough water every day to hydrate and prevent the white substance from coating your tongue all the time.

2. Vitamin supplements

Some physicians administer folic acid tablets, vitamin C and iron tablets or vitamin becosules as a treatment for white patches on the tongue.

3. Watch what you eat

Limit the intake of salty and spicy foods to get rid of white coating on tongue. Doctors will also advice you on foods and fruits to avoid until you are properly healed.

Some food stuffs may only do you more damage than good when treating this condition. Consider quitting or reducing alcohol intake and smoking while treating this condition.

4. Antioxidant-rich foods

Increase the intake of foods that are rich in anti-oxidants to help in quick healing especially if the patches are caused from bacterial infections. Examples of foods that are rich in antioxidants are;

  1. Blackberries
  2. Cranberries
  3. Carrots
  4. blueberries
  5. Spinach
  6. Pumpkins

Some of the vegetables that are considered to be good and rich in anti-oxidants include, Russet potatoes, artichokes and beans among others.

5. Oral Hygiene

Maintain good oral hygiene. A good oral hygiene during treatment of white coating or patches on tongue will help in keeping further advancement of any bacterial infections.

Also brush your tongue and keep it clean
Also brush your tongue and keep it clean

Clean teeth, gums, tongue and the mouth in general is very important in fast and quick healing. This will also help to prevent the problem.

6. Anti-fungal and anti-bacterial medicine

Anti-fungal treatments are good for getting rid of the coating and lesions on the tongue because they will get rid of the candidiasis yeast that causes it.

Note that this should never be bought over the counter. A doctor has to prescribe this only after a checkup and the cause has been detected.

7. Toothpaste

While treating this condition both in children and adults, avoid toothpaste that contain heavy whitening agents or flavor. Some additives in random toothpastes may also tend to irritate and worsen the situation. Use a standard recommended toothpaste recommended by your dentist.

8. Oral surgery

This is majorly administered when this patches are considered to be cancerous. Large patches may also be removed by surgery. This may involve a scalpel or a laser therapy.

9. Antiviral medications

This are mostly prescribed by doctors like in cases of leukoplakia that is hairy. This will help in clearing the condition and should be used strictly as prescribed by a doctor.

10. Geographic tongue treatment

After a doctor’s oral checkup and diagnosis and it is ascertained that it is this condition that is causing those white patches or coating on your tongue, the doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatories, zinc supplements and corticosteroids that may be applied directly on the tongue.

While you may use home remedies to clear the white patches, try and seek a doctor’s diagnosis in order to identify and treat the major cause of this tongue condition.

Here is a video on how to check your tongue in relation with other colors including having white patches on tongue;


  1. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/weighing-your-toothpaste-options
  2. http://www.healthline.com/health/leukoplakia#Outlook6
  3. http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/conditions/mouth-sores-and-infections/article/white-spot-on-the-tongue-1215
  4. http://www.md-health.com/White-Spots-On-Tongue.html
  5. http://www.healthline.com/health/tongue-burn#Diagnosis5

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