Yellow-Looking Tongue: What Causes It And How To Treat It

General HealthLiver

Do you have a yellow-looking tongue? Fun Fact: The average human tongue has about 10,000 taste buds. However, this can sometimes be involved in health conditions that can cause symptoms like a yellowish tongue. There are actually several causes but the main one is a buildup of bacteria on the tongue. You can sometimes deal with the problem by brushing/scraping off the bacteria, which will cause the tongue to return to its normal color. However, as always, it’s important to get this symptom checked out so you’ll know exactly what the problem is. Other possibilities include tobacco/food-caused stains. It’s yet another reason not to smoke cigarettes or vape e-cigarettes.

In most cases, the causes of yellowish tongue aren’t serious. However, the main exception is jaundice, which can also cause yellowish skin and eyeballs. Even this condition usually only causes symptoms like itchiness. However, jaundice might be a complication of late-stage liver disease known as cirrhosis. In that case, it’s important to treat the serious condition’s symptoms. Over time liver cirrhosis can progress to liver failure, which is a severe situation. However, in many cases, you can simply stop using mouthwash, medicines, etc. that causes yellow-looking tongue.

How Does the Tongue Work?

The tongue is an organ located in the mouth. There’s pink/moist tissue around it known as mucosa. There are also “papillae” or taste buds that cause the tongue to be rough. There are several thousand taste buds on the papillae. The average is 10,000 although the number can vary. The taste buds are cells connected to the brain’s nerves.

There’s also tough tissue that connects the tongue to the mouth. It’s held in place by a certain bone. Meanwhile, the main function of the tongue is chewing/swallowing food and talking.

The four main tastes are: salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. There’s also another taste known as “umami,” which results from tasting MSG and other substances with glutamate. The tongue contains several nerves that pick up and send various signals to a person’s brain.

There’s often a “taste map” that shows different tongue regions that pick up different kinds of taste. However, it doesn’t exist. The entire tongue can pick up the four different kinds of tastes. Yellow-looking tongue is actually one of the various symptoms you can experience that’s related to the muscular organ.

There are various types of conditions that can affect the tongue. One serious one is oral cancer, which is a growth/ulcer that shows up on the patient’s tongue. It grows quickly. This serious disease is more common among heavy alcohol drinkers and smokers.

Meanwhile, there are also common conditions like burning tongue/mouth. This is related to a mild nerve condition and can cause symptoms like burning/scalding. It can also cause odd tastes/sensations. It’s important to get this condition checked out if you experience the symptoms.

Another common health condition is called “thrush.” This can include bacteria growing on the surface of the tongue/mouth. Anyone can have this condition. However, it’s very common among the young/elderly, steroid users, and people with weak immune systems.

What Causes Yellow Tongue?


This is caused by inflammation but it’s a harmless condition. It affects the tongue’s surface. In the case of geographic tongue, there are areas on the tongue’s surface that lack papillae. This causes them to look smooth. There are also might be borders that are raised slightly.

It’s these patches that cause the tongue to look geographic/maplike. In many cases, the lesions heal within one area then move to another region of the patient’s tongue.

It’s worth noting that geographic tongue isn’t a serious health condition. It’s also not linked to infection/cancer. This condition sometimes causes sensitivity/discomfort that is linked to salt, spices, sugar, etc.


In many cases, this condition results from dead skin cells then build up on the small “papillae” that grow on the tongue’s surface. This often happens when the papillae become bigger and the bacteria make pigments.

The large papillae also trap shed cells. They can then get stained by substances like tobacco or food. Other causes of the yellow-looking tongue are dry mouth and mouth breathing.


This is a harmless condition that causes the tongue to look dark/furry. It typically is caused by dead skin cells building up in the tongue’s surface. The “papillae” can trap stuff like tobacco, yeast, bacteria, food, and other stuff.

In most cases, this condition doesn’t cause health problems. In most cases, black hairy tongue heals on its own.


This condition usually affects the skin or eyeballs. However, it can also affect other body parts like the tongue. It results from the buildup of “bilirubin,” which is a substance related to bile. When the body is unable to get rid of wastes properly it results in a buildup of bilirubin instead of the body getting rid of it.

This condition often doesn’t cause any symptoms besides yellowish skin, eyeballs, etc.

How to Treat Yellow-Looking Tongue

1. Brush tongue

This is a basic yet effective way to treat/prevent a yellow-looking tongue. Just use your regular toothpaste to gently brush your tongue while brushing your teeth. This can help to prevent bacteria buildup that can result in a yellowish tongue. You can also get a scraper from your dentist for removing the bacteria.

3, Brush teeth daily

In general, you should brush 2 or 3 times daily. This will help with various issues like avoiding plaque buildup and conditions like the yellow-looking tongue. Make sure to also use proper brushing techniques so you get the best results.

4. Avoid smoking

This is something you should probably consider anyway for various health reasons. However, it can also help to prevent conditions like black hairy tongue. Smoking can affect your teeth, gums, and tongue. So if you want to avoid health issues related to smoking make sure to put out your last cigarette or quit vaping.

5 Water

This is actually one of the best ways to prevent the buildup of bacteria, plaque, etc. in the mouth. Make sure to rinse your mouth with water a couple times per day. This can help to prevent bacteria buildup, which can result in various conditions like black hairy tongue.

6. Rinse

This is a good option if you have conditions like dry mouth. Your dentist can prescribe a special rinse to deal with the condition. If you’re taking medications that cause dry mouth you should talk to your doctor. He/She can prescribe a different med that doesn’t cause the same side-effect.

7. Hydrogen peroxide

Just brush your tongue with a 5:1 mixture of water: hydrogen peroxide. Make sure to take this step every day. Then use water to rinse your mouth multiple times. This is a basic remedy that often works when the cause of the condition is bacteria. Make sure to follow these steps daily until you get rid of the yellow tongue.

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