Yellow tongue: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Princess A.
9 Min Read

For several reasons, the human body is wonderful. When something goes wrong, the body sends you signals to warn you. A sprained ankle can cause a swell to the size of the grapefruit. A potential dental problem may be detected the next time you drink a cold drink. But looking at the mirror and surprisingly you notice you have a yellow tongue?

However, the yellowish tongue is often harmless, and with time it will go away even without your notice. Jaundice is one of the conditions that cause a serious yellow tongue and needs treatment.


Learn and have a good insight into why your tongue might turn yellow and how to properly treat the different causes of this symptom.

Why do I have a yellowish tongue?

A healthy tongue is pinkish in nature, so seeing another color in part of the tongue should trigger a warning that something is wrong somewhere. In most cases, the yellow tongue is nothing to be scared of.

It is usually the result of poor oral hygiene, where foods and bacteria can accumulate in the papillae of the tongue. If papillae are bigger, the bacteria in the mouth can generate colored pigments.


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What is a yellow tongue?

The yellow tongue is a yellow discoloration of the tongue. In some cases, this condition is temporary and harmless. There are varieties of factors that can lead to discoloration of the tongue. In most cases, the yellow tongue refers to the underlying disease.

A lot of people recover completely from a yellow tongue. Personal care and improved attention to oral hygiene solve the problem in general.

Who can have a yellow tongue?

Anyone is likely to develop a yellowish tongue. people who smoke and do other certain activities might likely experience tongue discoloration.

What are the causes of a yellow tongue?

A common cause of a yellowish tongue is the accumulation of skin cells and bacteria on the tongue. This accumulation is often due to poor dental health.


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Below are the possible causes and additional symptoms with information:

Black hairy tongue

This condition occurs when the tiny bumps called papillae that line the tip sides of your tongue grow bigger.
Bacteria, food, dirt, etc. can accumulate in these bumps and turn them into several colors. Although “black” is in the name of this disorder, your tongue may turn yellow or other colors before it becomes black.

Dry mouth or mouth breathing

Lack of enough saliva in your mouth is the cause of dry mouth. Saliva cleans away bacteria from your mouth, which helps in preventing tooth decay. Breathing in and out through your mouth while sleeping also contributes to dry mouth.


Jaundice is a condition in which the skin color and the whiteness of the eye turn yellow. It occurs when the liver is damaged and can’t process the bilirubin waste product properly. Bilirubin is a yellow pigment produced when there is a breakdown in red blood cells. When bilirubin is being built up in the blood, the whites of the eyes and tongue may turn yellow.

Medicines that contain bismuth

Pepto-Bismol and other medications that contain bismuth can change the color of the tongue from yellow to black.

Tobacco smoke

Chemicals found in tobacco smoke can make your tongue turn yellow.


What are the likely symptoms?

Symptoms associated with having a yellowish tongue include:

  • Bad breath
  • Additional white patches, film, or coating on the tongue or mucous membranes
  • A bad taste
  • Sore throat
  • Burning sensation
  • Small, raised bumps on the tongue
  • Acid reflux or indigestion
  • Dry mouth
  • Fever
  • The appearance of hair or fur on the tongue
  • Pain

When can I reach out to my doctor?

In some instances, most especially when accompanied by noticeable symptoms, the symptom can be a sign of more serious health complications than you can think of, such as jaundice.

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However, the reasons why you should seek medical attention for yellow tongue include:

  • Symptoms of jaundice, including yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes, bruising, fever, vomiting, nausea, fever, bloody diarrhea, and abdominal pain
  • Concern over the appearance of tongue color change or other tongue changes
  • The color does not go away with basic lifestyle adjustments, home remedies, or lasts longer than 2 weeks
  • Pain
  • Symptoms that get noticeably worse for no apparent reason
  • Very thick, pronounced skin cells on the tongue (papillae) that look like a layer of fur

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Are there any complications?

The yellow tongue usually does not cause complications. However, conditions that cause jaundice can cause problems including:


How can I treat Yellow Tongue?

Mayo Clinic recommends cleaning your tongue once a day with a solution containing one part of hydrogen peroxide and five parts of water. Also, take much water each day to avoid dehydration.

Make sure you add many fruits and vegetables to your diet. These fiber-rich foods will assist in eliminating bacteria buildup in the tongue. Then, quit smoking. Ensure to reach out to your doctor if any of these treatments don’t seem to work after a week.

How can I prevent a yellowish tongue?

To cut down the number of bacteria and amount of cell buildup in your mouth that can result in the symptom, try these tips:

Risk of a yellow tongue?

Anyone can develop a yellow tongue at any age, it is known that some factors increase the likelihood of the development of the condition. The risk factors include:

  • poor oral hygiene
  • tobacco use
  • heavy consumption of coffee or black tea
  • betel nut use
  • alcohol use
  • dehydration
  • cancer
  • autoimmune conditions
  • neurological conditions
  • disabling conditions

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