What causes yellow tongue?

Yellow tongue usually occurs when the papillae (tiny projections) on the surface of your tongue become enlarged and yellow-colored from bacteria growing in your mouth.

Most often, yellow tongue is an early sign of a harmless condition called black, hairy tongue, which is usually brought on by:
  • poor oral hygiene
  • heavy tobacco use
  • changes in the normal bacteria or yeast content of the mouth following antibiotic use
  • breathing through your mouth
  • medications containing bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol
  • regular use of mouthwashes containing oxidizing agents, such as peroxide, or astringent agents, such as witch hazel or menthol
Rarely, yellow tongue may be a sign of jaundice, a yellowing of your eyes and skin that might indicate liver or gallbladder problems.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.