How do I stop my tongue being so gross?
August 10, 2012 9:00 PM   Subscribe

My tongue is white and cracked. How do I stop it being so gross?

My tongue has a crack down the middle, from the back about two thirds of the way to the front. It is about 2 millimetres wide and deep. Any information I've been able to find about cracked tongues refers to small fissure-like cracks all over the tongue surface, this is defnintely something different.

Also, my tongue is white. This extends about 1cm in each direction from the crack, gradually changing to a faint pink colour at the front and sides of my tongue.

I have been using a tongue scraper for several months, and this has reduced the amount of white stuff, and also made the crack seem less deep. The scraper did everything it was supposed to, including 're-awakening' my tastebuds and giving my mouth a much sweeter taste. I still use it, but don't want to scrape any harder and risk doing any damage to my tongue.

As far as I know, my breath is normal. I eat pretty well, including a variety of fruits and vegetables, but maybe I'm missing some vital nutrients. I am a lady if that matters. I'm not sure how long my tongue has been like this... at least a couple of years, I can't remember before that. I floss and clean my teeth regularly, and sometimes go through phases of using mouthwash for a couple of months then stop. I haven't been licking anything out of the ordinary.
posted by peppermintfreddo to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
Is it possible you have thrush? Perhaps you should see a doctor.
posted by daisystomper at 9:09 PM on August 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

Oral thrush maybe? It would be unusual in an otherwise healthy adult, but the white tongue made me think of that immediately.
posted by chiababe at 9:10 PM on August 10, 2012

This is a question for a doctor who can look in your mouth and maybe make a culture of whatever is on your tongue.

If you want to treat this as thrush, gentian violet is a time honored and still prescribed remedy.

I am not a doctor.
posted by tulip-socks at 9:16 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Once you've ruled out thrush (which feels awful, so you'd probably know if you had that), this sounds a bit like geographic tongue. I have it too. It's common and harmless enough that it's basically considered normal. It can get 'better' or 'worse' (i.e. fluctuate in terms of colour and texture) over time, but there's no cure as such. Hooray!
posted by hot soup girl at 9:20 PM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your tongue colour and crack sound pretty extreme, and I think the other commenters are right that you should see a doctor.

Changing to a dry mouth toothpaste (biotene) helped me to get rid of white/fuzzy tongue issues, but I did not have any cracks.
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:36 PM on August 10, 2012

Actually, having looked at my tongue while brushing my teeth just now... when you say "cracked", do you mean "crack in the skin" or "crease in the skin"? Like a cut, or like a fold line? When I originally read your question, I imagined the former, but now that I think about it, my own tongue has the latter--a fold/crease line down the middle. It's always been there and I've always assumed it was normal. If that's the kind of thing you have, a crease in your tongue that isn't painful or oozy or in any other way unpleasant, just weird to look at, then I take back the rushing to the doctor thing.

If you go to the dentist regularly, what does your dentist think about your tongue?
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:32 PM on August 10, 2012

You may have Hairy Tongue
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:19 AM on August 11, 2012

Honestly your tongue sounds normal. A crease down the center is normal for many people (although less common than uncreased). There's a wide range in how white the filiform papilla are, too. Everyone's tongue looks gross if you really look at it, this is inescapable, tongues are simply not the most aesthetic organs (even the word for it is funny). If it doesn't hurt, doesn't impair your eating, doesn't smell, and your doctors and dentists aren't unhappy with it, then learn to embrace your tongue as it is.
posted by anaelith at 5:02 AM on August 11, 2012

Yes, see a doctor.

But purely anecdotal, I always had a white-coated tongue, which mildly bothered me but I thought it was just 'me'. Then I went on a strict no-dairy diet and it went away in a few days.
posted by nanook at 8:20 AM on August 11, 2012

Does your tongue also hurt after you eat certain foods? That's a pretty sure sign of geographic tongue, as linked to by hot soup girl above. I can only have small portions of lots of different kinds of foods, including my favorite fruit in the world, kiwi. Too much of a good thing and my tongue hurts.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 10:18 AM on August 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is the crack in the middle new? Some people just have a crack in the middle, with no further problem - it is called "fissured tongue" and can occur with a disease, but is usually just a normal variation in development. Apparently it can also develop later in life. Also, I think tongue fissures can be either small ones all over, or one big central one.

Here's a medical article listing some common tongue conditions seen in family practice, might scan them and see if anything rings a bell, re: the whiteness.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:40 PM on August 11, 2012

You need to see a doctor for a diagnosis - either way; barring that, stop scraping your tongue* and start using a mild antimicrobial mouthwash several times a day and especially before going to sleep for the night. I'm pretty sure there are over-the-counter antibiotic-infused stuff. Otherwise, use diluted (1:4?) listerine.

When I got my tongue barbell replaced with a shorter one, they nicked me and my tongue swelled up so I had to remove the barbell. Started getting nasty-looking white "growths" and freaked out. Turned out it's just a unique scar tissue that the tongue produces when its healing itself. Went away in about a week with regular mouth washing.

*at least least for a couple of weeks, personally, I use a medium toothbrush and just gently use the bristles all around my tongue
posted by porpoise at 6:56 PM on August 11, 2012

When I had thrush it was accompanied by a terrible taste in my mouth. But to help it until I got to the doctor, I took a friend's advice and gargled with hydrogen peroxide. (Be careful not to swallow any.) That helped quite a bit. But much like a traditional yeast infection (since thrush is just yeast in your mouth), you probably want to see your doctor the first time and get it properly diagnosed, if that's what it is. Easier to find than gentian violet and doesn't stain.

Seconding Biotene mouthwash if you notice a dry mouth. (Note: Biotene is sweetened with Xylitol. While Xylitol does not normally feed yeast, Google is telling me that for some people with thrush it can be a problem. So you know, you might hold off on using Biotene until you make sure you don't have thrush.)
posted by IndigoRain at 10:50 PM on August 11, 2012

Thanks everyone for the links and suggestions. Having checked out all your 'diagnoses', I have calmed down a little bit. It's definitely nothing like thrush, geographic tongue, hairy tongue or anything else linked here.

Maybe I'm not so abnormal, and tongues are all just gross. The couple of dentists I've had over the last couple of years have never made ay mention of my tongue, but I do have an appointment coming up shortly, so I will ask then.

(To be honest, the kind of answer I expected was "you're deficient in vitamin x", so wrong, haha!)
posted by peppermintfreddo at 7:31 PM on August 12, 2012

Gross white/cracked tongue is usually the cutover point where I decide "Yup, I have a sinus infection." Have you been having any headaches or pressure below your eyes? Sinus infections generally aren't treated with drugs, but if you've been experiencing this for months, a doctor might treat it with antibiotics.
posted by Mayor West at 5:50 AM on August 13, 2012

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