Meaning of yellow tongue. Get insight on causes, infants, bad breath, dry mouth, sore and get rid or treatment.

What does it mean when you have a yellow tongue?

The yellow tongue is considered as an initial sign of the disorder called black hairy tongue, which is also called lingua villosa nigra. This is where the tongue will become black or brown, and it will look hairy. In some instances, a yellow tongue is also a sign of jaundice, which is a problem caused by liver and gallbladder problems.

causes of yellow tongue

meaning of yellow tongue

The yellow tongue is a major problem for both adults and infants and it can also affect pregnant women due to hormonal imbalance during the period.

Yellow tongue mostly appears when you get up in the morning. When you sleep, bacteria or other substances will build up on the tongue. This will lead to a yellowish-green, yellowish-white, or yellowish-orange color.

Yellow tongue causes

What causes a yellow tongue? The following are the causes:

  1. Yellow furry tongue

This occurs when there is a buildup of dead skin and food remains buildup and also when the papillae become enlarged, swollen, or rough. When this buildup is paired with bacteria or yeast, it can cause the tongue to look yellow or black and hairy.

  1. After use of Antibiotic

Due to an imbalance of microorganisms, they facilitate the appearance of the yellow tongue after the use of some antibiotics and in turn, it causes bacteria or yeast to thrive.

  1. Excess growth of bacteria in the mouth

Usually, a thick coating of yellow color on the tongue is due to poor digestion, and intestinal permeability or gut flora imbalance. This condition is related to the black hairy tongue.

  1. UTI infections

When you experience a thick and yellow coating on the back of your tongue may indicate a urinary tract infection (UTI).

  1. Jaundice

It will most often occur due to an underlying cause. In any case, there is excess bilirubin, which are red blood cells with yellow pigment.

  1. Piercing, tooth extraction, or tonsillectomy

A yellow tongue may appear after having a tongue piercing, tooth extraction, or tonsillectomy, in turn, facilitate papillae inflammation. It’s important that you follow proper oral care after these procedures to reduce the risk of infection.

  1. Oral care products

Some mouthwash products can make the tongue appear yellow or orange. Mouthwashes containing oxidizing agents are the biggest culprit of this.

  1. Post-nasal drainage

This is either a white or yellow coating on the tongue is common after post-nasal drainage. It is a condition characterized by excessive mucus accumulation at the back of the throat and nose.

  1. Scarlet fever

It is the major known cause that enhances a rough or coarse rash on various parts of the body including trunk, limb, and face. It also causes red bumps on the tongue as well as a yellowish white coat or film.

  1. Other lesser causes include:
  • Dry mouth
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive tobacco use
  • Eating soft food that does not rub or scraps off the dead skin on your tongue.

Yellow tongue and sore throat

Some instances, you may experience both yellow tongue and sore throat that can have an impact on some areas making one have an earache, swollen glands, cough, fatigue, earache, bad breath, yellow mucus on the tongue, sores, and stuffy nose.

treatment of sore throat

causes of sore throat and yellow tongue

Some of the following diseases are usually associated with a sore throat and yellowing of tongue:

  • HIV/Aids

Although it is a unique sign of HIV/aids in HIV, the yellow tongue coating is usually caused by an oral infection due to a weakened immune system. Oral thrush, dry mouth, tooth decay, canker sores, cold sores, and gum disease are all signs of HIV of the mouth.

  • Strep throat

In strep throat, there may be tiny white and yellow spots at the back of your tongue and tonsils. Its symptoms include high fever, pain in swallowing, severe sore throat, swollen lymph nodes (or glands) and tonsils as well as white and yellow spots common at the back of your tonsils and tongue.

  • Mononucleosis (mono)

This is mostly transmitted via saliva by Epstein-Barr virus (EPV). In the condition, the tongue and tonsils may develop a white and yellow coating.

  • Tongue Cancer

Yellowing of tongue sometimes create fear and worry to some people since they feel it might be a sign of oral cancer.

cancer of the tongue

yellow tongue cancer

However, the yellow tongue is probably due to another problem unless you show other signs of oral cancer like unexplained bleeding in the mouth, numbness or a loss of feeling in the mouth, difficulty chewing, speaking, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaw, and sudden weight loss.

Yellow tongue baby, toddlers or infants

Yellow tongue affects children or infants just as it affects adults. Since yellow tongue can be caused by the growth of certain bacteria in the mouth, anyone at any age is prone to it, if conditions are favorable.

However, grown individuals are more likely to develop yellow tongue, because all of the factors that facilitate to yellow tongues, such as poor oral hygiene, smoking, and liver and gall bladder disease, are more likely to occur over time.

In rare situations do infants have jaundice caused by liver or gallbladder issues, which also causes yellow tongue?

Also, toddlers may get yellow tongue from dynamics in the normal bacteria or yeast content of the mouth following antibiotic use.

Note: Also, if you are breastfeeding and you have recently been on antibiotics yourself, the levels of your healthy bacteria can be affected. This can make you, or your baby, more likely to develop thrush.

Yellow tongue bad breath

Most coated tongue causes Halitosis. This refers to a Bad breath that originates from the nasal passages or oral cavities and is, in essence, a foul smell emanating from the nose or mouth as a result of the presence of Sulphur producing bacteria.

The majority of people suffering from this condition are usually unaware since it is often tricky to smell the foul odor on oneself.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Oral Science found that people with morning breath tend to have more slightly acidic saliva and may have a basic tongue coating that causes the tongue to turn yellow.

Dry mouth yellow tongue

Dry mouth usually enhances halitosis which is typically accompanied with tongue turning to yellow due to the favorable condition that favors the development of yeast.

Dry mouth again, enhances all the bacteria to become more concentrated in the saliva, and they tend to volatilize or evaporate more readily into the air. When this occurs, bad breath will be stronger and more noticeable at greater distances.

Moreover, the pH of the mouth becomes altered, and this creates an environment that is more favorable to the development of anaerobic bacteria. Since there is less saliva the flushing or cleansing effect of saliva is reduced.

Sore yellow tongue

Sores on the tongue can either be white or yellow, though they may turn gray as they begin to heal. It is believed that sore yellow tongue is due to Tongue Ulcer.

Some of the causes of tongue ulcers include:

  • Canker sores
  • Oral cancer
  • Infections
  • Poor oral care

How to get rid of yellow tongue or yellow tongue treatment

These include:

  • Gargle a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide to kill bacteria.
  • Improve your intake of fiber to improve digestion and, in turn, improve gastrointestinal health, which can reduce yellow tongue.
  • Maintain better oral hygiene with brushing, flossing, and mouthwash.
  • Use an alcohol-free mouthwash as it is less irritating to the tongue.


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