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Q: Physiology ( Answered 2 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: Physiology
Category: Health > Medicine
Asked by: mvesh-ga
List Price: $10.00
Posted: 21 Nov 2005 10:24 PST
Expires: 21 Dec 2005 10:24 PST
Question ID: 595821
Many people often, or even always, have some sort of white coating on
their tongues. What is this coating made of and what processes produce
it? Is it known why this coating is produced and what physiological
conditions (normal or pathological) it correletes with? I know about
thrush, but that is definitely something else.
Subject: Re: Physiology
Answered By: emjay-ga on 21 Nov 2005 21:04 PST
Rated:2 out of 5 stars
Hi mvesh-ga,

Thank you for your question!

Different sources attribute the "white film" phenomenon you describe
to a variety of causes, among them medication side effects, yeast
overgrowth, stagnated vital energy and plain old oral bacteria. As
you've no doubt gathered, these explanations come from health and
wellness camps with widely differing approaches and philosophies.

The Einstein Medical Patient Education Libraries offer quite a
straightforward explanation grounded in traditional medicine

"...saliva helps wash away the natural buildup of bacteria in the
mouth and on the tongue. Yet, when saliva sits on the back of the
tongue and is digested by bacteria, it shows up as a white film on the
tongue. This is a major source of bad breath."

An article at concurs:

"A white film on the top of the tongue means there are millions of
bacteria living there. The practice of scraping the tongue removes the
white colour waste products from the surface of the tongue, and
enhances the functioning of taste buds. Not only that, it helps to
reduce halitosis, or bad breath and provides a clean environment for
good dental hygiene."
< >

An article appearing on "The Health Spas Guide - South Africa" website
also attributes the film to bacterial buildup, but suggests a possible
dehydration connection:

"Furry tongue/bad breath - if not enough fluid is passing through the
mouth to wash away food particles, bacteria builds up in the throat
and mouth, and on the tongue as a white film or fur."
< >

A white film on the tongue is a known side effect to Kepivance, a drug
used to treat some of the side effects of radiation in cancer patients
I also found claims of this reaction in response to the acid reflux
drug Prilosec <>
and homeopathic remedy Lycopodium

Holistic practitioner Katie Murphy claims that the white film can be
one of many potential symptoms of yeast overgrowth, also known as
Candida Albicans, in the body < >.

In "The Link Between Nutrition and Cancer," Dr. Patrick Quillin links
a third-world nut to a particularly toxic lingual film:

"Betel nuts provide a tobacco-like chew for hundreds of millions of
people in third world countries. The effects of betel nuts includes a
pre-cancerous condition called oral leukoplakia, in which there is a
white film over the mouth surface, which can mature into full blown
< >

Other medical traditions offer alternate possibilities. In an article
titled "Menstrual Essentials," Linda Sparrowe, using concepts integral
to Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) Medicine, attributes the "mystery
film" to the presence of "ama, the sticky, icky "stuff" that
accumulates in our bodies when something is amiss." She goes on to say
that "You can see it as the white film on your tongue after a night of
eating rich, heavy foods, or when you are sick."
<>. An article on strokes
in the context of Chinese medicine attributes the appearance of a
white film on the tongue to a stagnation of "qi," or vital energy.
< >

Finally, tongue piercings commonly cause a white film to appear on the tongue.

I found the following search string helpful in developing your answer:

"white film" tongue

Please feel free to request clarification if required. All the best!


Request for Answer Clarification by mvesh-ga on 21 Nov 2005 22:41 PST
Dear emjay-ga,

Thank you for trying to take on my question. I'm afraid, however, that
the materials you've found did not contribute much to answering the
question I asked. I heard all these speculations before, and I can
even add I few more myself. But I am not looking for a diversity of
opinions on the subject but for scientific facts.

Drug side effects are relevant (and scientific), but until the
mechanism is known, they do not add much to the picture.

I'm sure that the person who wrote the article about bad breath on thinks that he knows his science (which I find
highly unlikely from what he writes). But since he provides no
references there, I have no way of verifying anything he says.


Clarification of Answer by emjay-ga on 22 Nov 2005 16:44 PST
Hello mvesh,

Sorry my answer wasn't quite what you're looking for -- perhaps
another researcher can be of further assistance. Please feel free to
request a repost/refund from Google Answers if you feel it's required!

Best regards,
mvesh-ga rated this answer:2 out of 5 stars
The information provided by the researcher was from questionable
sources and presented a variety of speculations on the subject rather
than the current knowledge and scientific facts.

Subject: Re: Physiology
From: happyguy24-ga on 26 Jan 2006 19:27 PST
I have a white film on my tongue as well. It is thicker in the back of
my mouth and then get thinner towards the front. When I brush the
majority of it comes off but then it returns later on in the day.
Could this be thrush or is it just the bacteria that has been
Subject: Re: Physiology
From: mvesh-ga on 21 Feb 2006 14:34 PST
Hi happyguy24-ga,
What you are describing is exactly what I was asking about. It does
not appear to be thrush, and it appears  to me that nobody knows what
it is...
Subject: Re: Physiology
From: pafalafa-ga on 03 Aug 2006 06:02 PDT
I know it's been a while since this question appeared, but I came
across a reference that strikes me as more authoritative than most:
Hairy/Coated Tongue
Patient Information

complete with ugly pictures.  They attribute the coating on the tongue
to the over-production of keratin on the tongue, possibly from
irritations, such as hot drinks.

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