Yellow Tongue: Causes, Treatments And Home Remedies


5 Min Read

Food buildup with bacterial growth, consumption of antibiotics, use of oral care products with oxidizing agents, papillary inflammation after extracting a tooth, mucus accrual after nasal drainage, underlying conditions like HIV, jaundice, and cancer, and smoking – are all causes of a yellow tongue. Scrape your tongue, floss, gargle with hydrogen peroxide solution, drink lots of water, eat fibers, and quit smoking.

The appearance of a yellow tongue can be quite alarming to most people and can signal a real medical concern. For others, a yellow tongue is temporary and will recover on its own, but it’s always important to figure out the cause of yellow tongue to ensure complications don’t arise. Yellow tongue can happen at any age and is quite common in women who are pregnant as a result of hormonal changes.

But just for safety you should see a doctor to ensure it’s nothing serious. Here are the common reasons why a person may develop a yellow tongue.

Reasons Why Your Tongue Is Yellow

Changes that occur to the tongue can reveal a lot about your overall health. Here are some common causes of a yellow tongue and what they mean to your health.

1. Black Hairy/Furry Tongue Or Yellow Furry Tongue

This is caused by dead skin and food buildup. It usually occurs when the papillae become enlarged, swollen, or rough. When this buildup is paired with bacteria or yeast, it can cause the tongue to look yellow/black and hairy. Other signs of yellow furry tongue are bad breath, metallic taste, tickling/itching sensation and a hairy appearance.

2. Antibiotic Usage

The use of some antibiotics can cause yellow tongue due to an imbalance of microbes, which causes bacteria or yeast to thrive.

3. Excess Bacterial Growth In The Mouth

When bacteria thrive inside the mouth, the tongue turns yellow. This condition is related to black hairy tongue.

4. Oral Care Products

Some oral care products like mouthwashes can make the tongue appear yellow or orange. Mouthwashes containing oxidizing agents could cause the color change.

5. Jaundice

Although it is a rarer occurrence, a yellow tongue can be a sign of jaundice, which also points to a liver problem. The symptoms of jaundice are also characterized by yellow eyes and skin.

6. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

A thick yellow coating – especially at the back of the tongue – could be an early warning sign of a UTI. But the same yellow coating towards the front is a sign of an upper respiratory infection.

7. Piercing, Tooth Extraction Or Tonsillectomy

A yellow tongue may follow a piercing, tooth extraction, or tonsillectomy as a result of papillae inflammation. It’s important that you follow proper oral care after these procedures to reduce the risk of infection.

8. Post-Nasal Drainage

Post-nasal drainage may cause a yellow or an evenly white tongue, which can result in bad breath. Excessive mucus accumulates at the back of the nose and throat, and is commonly caused by allergies, acid reflux or swallowing disorders.

9. Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever can cause bumps on the tongue along with yellow or white coating.

Other Causes Of Yellow-Coated Tongue

The following reasons could be attributed to the development of a yellow-c0ated tongue:

  • Geographic tongue
  • Dehydration
  • Dry mouth
  • Fever
  • Acid reflux
  • Mouth breathing
  • Excessive tobacco smoking
  • Medications
  • Tongue irritations caused by hot beverages
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Soft/mushy foods that leave a residue
  • Foods or candies with yellow dye

Yellow Tongue Signs And Symptoms

Yellow tongue may appear on its own or as a symptom of another condition. Some common symptoms associated with yellow tongue include bad breath, burning sensation due to acid and – in case of jaundice – yellow skin and eyes.

Yellow Tongue’s Association With Other Diseases

As mentioned, yellow tongue could be a warning sign of another disease, such as:

1. Cancer

Yellow build-up, coating or film on the tongue could sometimes signal cancer, but pay attention to other symptoms as well as this is quite rare.

2. Sore Throat And Strep Throat

The bacteria that cause strep throat and sore throat can also cause yellow tongue. Accompanying symptoms include fever, painful swallowing, and swollen lymph nodes.

3. Mononucleosis (Mono)

This viral infection known as the kissing disease, is transmitted through the sharing of saliva. Accompanying symptoms include fatigue, fever, skin rash, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and sore throat.

4. Yellow Under-Tongue

Common causes of a yellow under-tongue include biliary colic, alcoholic hepatitis, hepatitis A and B, mononucleosis, viral hepatitis, gallbladder disease, gallstones, and Epstein-Barr virus.


Yellow tongue is a rare symptom of HIV and AIDS, but it can also reveal a compromised immune system. Yellow tongue could also be a sign of oral thrush – yeast infection of the mouth.

Home Remedies For Treating Yellow Tongue

Here are some home remedies and treatments you can utilize if you have a yellow tongue.

  • Gargle a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide – 5 parts water to one part hydrogen peroxide – to kill bacteria.
  • Increase your intake of fiber to improve digestion and, in turn, improve gastrointestinal health, which can reduce yellow tongue.
  • Limit alcohol and stop smoking.
  • Limit intake of oily and starchy foods.
  • Eat more fermented foods and probiotics.
  • Maintain proper oral hygiene with brushing, flossing, and mouthwash.
  • Don’t brush your tongue with the toothbrush bristles as that can cause irritation.
  • Instead, use a tongue scraper specifically designed for the job.
  • Use an alcohol-free mouthwash as it is less irritating to the tongue.
  • Stay well hydrated throughout the day.

When Should You See A Doctor?

If your tongue remains yellow after a week’s time, go in to see your doctor or dentist to check what is going on.

Or if you begin to notice accompanying symptoms along with the presence of your yellow tongue that is also a good indication that you need medical attention as something serious is going on.

Dr. Victor Marchione

I truly believe in the satisfaction that comes with helping people learn about their ailments, in whatever context that it happens. I understand that educating people about ways to prevent sickness and promote inner health is the best approach to medicine

Dr. Victor Marchione

I truly believe in the satisfaction that comes with helping people learn about their ailments, in whatever context that it happens. I understand that educating people about ways to prevent sickness and promote inner health is the best approach to medicine