Why is my tongue green? This discoloration whether pale, dark, green-yellow, green-white, etc.) is a common problem that affects people of all ages including elderly, adults and children (baby, infant or toddler). Discover more on this coating or film including causes, diagnosis and the symptoms you expect to have.
A normal tongue is supposed to be pink (or reddish-pink) in color with some light white coatings. However, different diseases, conditions, disorders or habits can make it change to yellow, orange, blue, white, black, purple, etc. What if you have a greenish color, what does this mean?
A green tongue, as the name suggests, refers discoloration or coating (stuff, film, slime or gunk) on its surface that could cover a part such as at the back or the whole of it.
Other than being just coated purely green, it might also be pale, yellow, dark, blue or white green, among other colors depending on the underlying causes.
Children (baby or infants), teens as well as adults can suffer from this problem, with oral thrush being the most common cause of white, yellow or greenish coating on toddlers or infants.
Furthermore, some people have this problem throughout or always unless the underlying cause has been dealt with or treated, while others tend to common in the morning when they wake up (temporary).
Besides the appearance, you might have some other signs and symptoms which are depended on the underlying cause.
The common accompanying symptoms include halitosis or bad breath, discomfort (including pain and soreness which will increase when you eat spicy or hot foods), a few patients might have a metallic taste in their mouth, gastrointestinal discomforts (nausea, vomiting), sore throat, swollen tongue, among others.
The specific symptoms that you have are very important in diagnosis since they can help you know what could be behind the coating or film which can be very thick at times.
Why is my tongue green?
There are many possible causes which range from diseases and conditions, some habits as well as other underlying medical conditions. These could be local or systemic problems. Some of the common reasons include:
1. Oral candidiasis
Oral candidiasis or oral thrush is a throat and mouth fungal infection that is caused by the overgrowth of opportunistic fungi, candida albicans (i.e. white, yellow or green fungus). It is often characterized by “white patches in the mouth, inner cheeks, throat, palate, and tongue, as well as soreness and mouth pain” [Medicinenet.com].
However, after eating some foods as well as taking some antibiotics, you might end up with a greenish coating i.e. yellow, dark, pale, or whitish-green coating or film.
Anyone can suffer from oral thrush with its prevalence high in “babies and toddlers, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems” [WebMD.com] especially those whose immunity has been weakened by HIV infection, cancer or uncontrolled diabetes.
Other causes include dry mouth, hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, smoking, some medications (especially birth control pills, antibiotics or corticosteroids), etc.
To be certain it is oral thrush, ensure you get a correct diagnosis from a doctor. To treat it, antifungal medications (liquids, lozenges or tablets) are often recommended. Note that oral candidiasis should not be confused with the genital candidiasis which is an STD.
2. Green furry hairy tongue
Hairy tongue syndrome is the second most common cause of a bumpy, rough green discoloration, especially it is furry, fluffy, fuzzy or has a hairy feeling. Your tongue will tend to be white, brown, or have shades of green or other colors depending on foods (especially if you are fond of lollipops and candies) or mouthwashes you use. Therefore, it is possible to have greenish bumps or spots on the tongue when you have this syndrome.
The American Academy of Oral Medicine refers to this condition as an “abnormal coating on the top (dorsal) surface of the tongue” [Aaom.com]. It often occurs when keratin proteins build up because there is no tongue surface abrasion or stimulation. In some cases, the papillae may be very long forming hair-like projections.
Food, bacteria, yeast accumulation, as well as papillae which do not shed well, can give rise to it.
The problem is commonly caused by poor oral hygiene, dehydration, head, and neck radiation therapies, excessive use of antibiotics, coffee, tea, too much tobacco and marijuana smoking, among many other causes.
3. Other cause
Besides the above, other probable reasons the green color include the following:
- Trauma – Trauma and piercing can often result in white or green mucus in case of infection i.e. a greenish-yellow discharge. In such a case, a bacterial infection in the affected area is likely.
- Marijuana – Chewing and smoking weed and tobacco is another possible cause this color i.e. excess smoking of marijuana, tobacco as well as tobacco chewing is known to result in greenish coatings.
- Infection – Besides oral thrush and hairy tongue, various infections including the green tongue yeast infection can cause this discoloration.
- Mouth ulcers – Ulcers, sores, and blisters can make it appear greenish especially after taking some types of foods as well as medications.
- Throat irritation – Throat irritation as well as upper respiratory tract infections can lead to not only a greenish coating but also some spots with the same color (or bumps) especially at the back of your tongue.
- Prolonged use of antibiotics
- Green colored foods, candy, and lollipops (i.e. lollipops with this color dyes) can cause temporary discoloration.
- Some mouthwashes and toothpaste have ingredients that can make your tongue to look green in color.
If your baby has this tongue discoloration, you need to check for oral thrush, black hairy tongue or upper respiratory tract infection if the back of the side is affected.
However, the most probable cause is oral thrush since it is very common in infants, babies or toddlers. Normally, white patches are what is expected; however, you might end up with green color especially with medicine and food consumption.
When with a sore throat
If you have this discoloration is accompanied by a sore throat, your upper respiratory tract might be infected. The most common cause of upper respiratory tract infection is strep throat. Other possible infections include common cold, sinus infection, and rhinitis, among others.
When you have a strep throat, you will tend to have whitish or greenish pus especially on the surface of your tonsils. Sometimes, you might have this discoloration with bumps and sore throat i.e. “little dark-red, almost purple, spots on the back of the roof of the mouth and the uvula” [DrEeddy.com].
If your tongue is green, there could be many reasons behind the color. Correct diagnosis is paramount if you have to successfully treat the underlying cause, especially if that cause is a serious one.
In most instances, this discoloration might not indicate a serious or life-threatening health problem. However, it is advisable to see a health care professional for diagnosis and treatment in case the problem does not disappear on its own after a couple of days.
The best way to treat this discoloration is by treating the underlying cause. This requires a diagnosis before treatment. However, some of the general ways to deal with this problem include:
- Keeping good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth and mouth at least twice a day
- Trying home remedies such as using turmeric past and honey since they have excellent antibacterial properties. They can also help in oral thrush control
- Eat a balanced diet, avoid soft foods only and ensure you have enough vitamin C for stronger immunity.
- Try a scrapper
This discoloration is not an issue on its own but it could be an indication of a different health problem. If it is temporary, lasts less than a week, you do not need to be worried about it.