Home Health A-Z Yellow Tongue: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis and Prevention

Yellow Tongue: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis and Prevention

Verified By Apollo Doctors July 27, 2022 29613 0
Yellow Tongue: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis, Prevention
Yellow Tongue: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis, Prevention


Yellow tongue is a condition where the tongue appears yellow instead of its normal pink or reddish colour. The yellow colour appears when dead skin cells build up on the surface of your tongue. Bacteria on your mouth also produce a yellow pigment and makes it appear yellow.  

The yellow tongue is a common condition and rarely poses a severe problem. It is not contagious and is typically temporary, and often disappears with the maintenance of better oral hygiene. In some cases, it may indicate the presence of some other condition like jaundice

What are the Symptoms of Yellow Tongue?

The most prominent symptom is the discolouration of the tongue. Some other symptoms you may experience are:

  • Coating, film, or patches on the surface of the tongue
  • Bad breath
  • Slight bumps on the tongue
  • Dry mouth
  • Mouth breaking
  • Black hairy tongue
  • Jaundice
  • Inflamed tongue

What are the Causes of Yellow Tongue?

A yellow tongue is mainly caused by: 

  • A build-up of dead skin cells on tongue
  • Enlarged papillae
  • Pigment creating bacteria in the mouth

Certain medications and lifestyle factors can also increase the likelihood of yellow tongue. Some of them are: 

  • Oral hygiene: If a person has poor oral hygiene, you are more likely to have a yellow tongue. Adopting habits that promote good oral health, like regularly brushing your teeth can prevent or help you get rid of a yellow tongue. 
  • Tobacco: Tobacco use, either orally or through smoking, also contributes to a yellow tongue. Tobacco contains toxins that discolor cells, sometimes leading to a yellow tongue. 
  • Dry mouth: Saliva helps clean the mouth of bacteria and food particles. When you have a dry mouth, bacteria may thrive and cause a yellow tongue. 
  • Black hairy tongue: This is a condition that makes your tongue look black and hairy. Sometimes this condition can also cause yellow tongue. 
  • Drugs and medicines: Medicines and drugs can also increase the chances of a yellow tongue.
  • Some of them are:
    1. Antibiotics
    2. Blood-thinning drugs
    3. Psychiatric medications
    4. Diabetes medications
  • Geographic tongue: This is a condition that causes red patches on your tongue. Having this condition may also increase the chances of a yellow tongue. 
  • Jaundice: Jaundice is characterized by the buildup of bilirubin in your body. This causes your eyes and sometimes even your tongue to become yellow. 
  • Stomach ailment: Gastric conditions that cause inflammation in the stomach lining can also be a reason for a yellow tongue.  
  • Psoriasis, a condition causing flaky, scaly skin, may cause yellow patches on the tongue surface.

When to See a Doctor?

A yellow tongue is not an illness. However, if the discoloration persists for too long and your skin and eyes also turn yellow, it may indicate jaundice. In this case you need to consult with your doctor.  

Can Yellow Tongue be Prevented?

You can keep yellow tongue at bay by: 

  • Brushing your teeth thoroughly
  • Scraping your tongue regularly
  • Using a mouthwash

How is Yellow Tongue Diagnosed?

During the examination, your doctor will assess your eyes, mouth, and skin and ask you about your medical history. If needed, your doctor may also recommend tests. 

How is Yellow Tongue Treated?

Yellow tongue rarely needs medical treatment. In most cases, maintaining proper oral hygiene will solve the problem. You can also try the following:

  • Brush your tongue with a mixture of 1 part hydrogen peroxide and 5 parts water. Rinse your mouth thoroughly after brushing.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat high-fibre food.
  • Ensure proper oral hygiene.


Although yellow tongue is not a serious condition, there may be underlying health conditions causing it. You should get your doctor’s opinion to rule out the presence of something more serious. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can antibiotics cause yellow tongue?

Yes, antibiotics and blood-thinning drugs can cause yellow tongue. But, it is temporary and usually goes away on its own.

Can oral thrush cause yellow tongue?

Oral thrush is a yeast infection on the tongue. Yes, it can cause a yellow tongue. 

What causes yellow tongue in babies?

The most common cause of yellow tongue in infants is jaundice. You should consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. 

Verified By Apollo Doctors
At Apollo, we believe that easily accessible, reliable health information can make managing health conditions an empowering experience. AskApollo Online Health Library team consists of medical experts who create curated peer-reviewed medical content that is regularly updated and is easy-to-understand.

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