Causes Of White Spots On Your Tongue - savina dental malta and gozo

A healthy tongue is pink and has tiny bumps on it called papillae. Any health problem with the tongue manifests itself in the form of spots, blotches, and bumps on the tongue. When you notice any of these symptoms, you need to seek expert advice to know the causes of these white spots on your tongue.

What do white spots on tongue look like?

White spots on the tongue are typically painless. Sometimes, a pimple on your tongue is just a single spot that has no colouration. Other times, spots on the tongue appear concentrated and patterned. They can be raised spots or extremely white creamy spots. While these spots don’t signify anything serious most of the times, it is vital to get checked to verify their severity.

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Single White Spot on Tongue

A single white spot on your tongue is usually harmless. However, it should not go unchecked either. If you notice that it is persistent, seek medical advice. A single white spot on the tongue could be indicative of two issues’ a canker sore or a lie bump.

Canker sores

These are irritating ulcers that appear on the roof of the mouth, gums or the tongue. When you bite or burn your tongue, you may develop a canker sore. Other causes of canker sores include an acidic diet, broken or misaligned teeth and lack of some essential vitamins. Typically, they have no colouration if they remain uninfected. Infected canker sores have a yellow mid centre or red bordering.

Lie bumps

In medical terms, lie bumps are called transient lingual papillitis. They appear on the tip of the tongue, and they are either white or red. They can be painful or uncomfortable. When they become infected, they are called eruptive lingual papillitis. This is most common in children. They resolve on their own in a week or less and usually don’t require treatment.

White Spot on Back of Tongue Causes

White spots at the back of the tongue are common. They might be caused by failure to brush your teeth and tongue. However, they can also be an indicator of oral thrush. Oral thrush appears as large, creamy white lesions or bumps at the back of the tongue, and are caused by the Candida fungus. Most of the times, the fungus is harmless, but some conditions such as unchecked diabetes and immunosuppression may aggravate it.

What Causes White Spots on the Tip of the Tongue?

White spots on the tip of the tongue may be caused by an injury. These tend to clear up after a while. If they keep appearing or don’t heal after a long time, it may be due to a fungal infection.

Why are White spots on the Side of my Tongue?

If the white spots on the sides of your tongue are not caused by trauma, they may be associated with leukokeratosis. Also known as leukoplakia lingual, the spots appear as thick white patches on the tongue. They are mostly caused by on and off tobacco use. Spleen disorders could also be a cause of white spots on the side of the tongue.

In severe cases, these spots could be an indication of cancer. Due to tobacco use, the spots or patches on the sides of the tongue may become cancerous.

White Spot On The Tongue: Other Causes and symptoms:


These are thick white patches on the tongue caused by inflammation from food, alcohol use, and ill-placed dentures. Symptoms include a thick white elevated surface. If there is a reddish appearance to the patches, see a dentist and a cancer specialist.

Geographic tongue

Geographic tongue or benign migratory glossitis is caused by a loss of papillae on some parts of the tongue, making it look like a map. Some of the symptoms include a bumpy white border on the patches. Typically, geographic tongue is harmless.

Hairy Leukoplakia

This is a viral condition associated with Epstein-Barr virus. It is mostly seen in HIV/AIDS patients. The papillae on the tongue overgrow and accumulate bacteria. The accumulated bacteria make the tongue have a hairy look. Symptoms include white patches or full coverage of the tongue with the overgrowth.

Lichen planus

Lichen planus is an inflammation of the mucosa (if it appears in the mouth). There are other forms, but skin and oral lichen planus are relatively common. The swelling occurs as lacy web-like strands on the tongue. The causes are not known, but patients with suppressed immune systems are most at risk.

When to Visit Your Dentist

Most spots on the tongue heal by themselves in 10 days or less. However, if you have persistent or painful recurrences of these patches after two weeks, you need to visit a dentist as soon as possible. If you notice the white appearance can be scraped off, it is advisable that you seek dental attention.


Treatments for white spots on your tongue range from topical antibiotics to remedies such as antifungal medication and antibacterial mouthwash.

Causes Of White Spots On Your Tongue


Below are some tips that can help you steer away from white spots on your tongue:

  • To eliminate the probability or the recurrence of white spots on the tongue, you need to maintain high dental care standards. Brushing your teeth and staying hydrated makes the environment unsuitable for bacteria. You can use an antibacterial mouthwash for better results.
  • Avoid overspiced food, acidic food, and food that increases the chances of getting bruised. Spicy foods irritate the lining of the mouth and tongue.
  • Avoid smoking, and excessive alcohol intake as these could increase your chances of oral cancers.
  • Limit your sugar intake. Sugar is a breeding ground for oral bacteria.
  • Use home remedies like salt water and baking soda to get rid of bacteria and create a more pH balanced environment.
  • Do regular self-checkups and keep your dentist appointments.

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Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.

Joseph Xuereb
Principal Dental Surgeon & Owner of Savina Dental Clinics, Dr Joseph Xuereb BChD (Hons), MFGDP(UK), MGDS RCS(Eng), FFGDP RCS(UK), FICD is a general dental practitioner with a special interest in Implant and Restorative Dentistry. Dr Joseph & the teams' full biographical information can be found here.