Coated or White Tongue
Coated or White Tongue
A sore or white tongue isn't usually serious and is often easily treated.  Most should only last a short time.

Thigs you can do yourself

  • use a soft toothbrush to brush your teeth
  • use a toothpaste that doesn't contain sodium lauryl sulphate
  • brush your tongue or use a scraper to help improve a white tongue
  • use a straw to drink cool drinks
  • take painkillers


  • do not eat hard, spicy, salty, acidic or hot food and drink that may irritate the tongue
  • do not smoke
  • do not drink alcohol

A pharmacist can help with a sore or white tongue

A pharmacist can look at your tongue and might be able to tell you:

  • what's causing it
  • if you can buy anything to help with any pain or irritation
  • if you should see a dentist or GP

Find a local pharmacy here.

See a GP or dentist if you:

  • have pain or itchiness that doesn't go away or gets worse
  • have white patches on your tongue

Common causes of a sore or white tongue

Biting or burning your tongue with hot food or drink can cause pain and swelling.  But this should only last a few days.

A white tongue can be a sign of a health condition.

Don't self-diagnose - see your GP if you're worried.

Lichen planus

White patches on the tongue and inside the cheek, with sore gums.  Read more.


White, raised patches on the tongue that don't come off when you rub them.  Read more.

Geographic tongue

Blotchy, red patches on the tongue that have a white or light-coloured border.  Read more.

Mouth ulcer

Round, painful and swollen sores that look like blisters.  Read more.

Oral thrush

Itchy, red mouth with white patches on the tongue.  Read more.

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The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 24/06/2019 09:54:03