Definition of yellow tongue
Yellow tongue — a yellow discoloration of your tongue — is usually a temporary, harmless problem. Most often, yellow tongue is an early sign of a disorder known as black, hairy tongue. Rarely, yellow tongue may indicate a problem with your liver or gallbladder. Self-care is usually all that’s needed to treat yellow tongue.
Causes of yellow tongue
Yellow tongue usually occurs as a result of harmless changes to the tiny projections (papillae) on the surface of your tongue. Most commonly this occurs when your papillae become enlarged and bacteria in your mouth produce colored pigments.
Rarely, yellow tongue may be a sign of jaundice, a yellowing of your eyes and skin that may indicate liver or gallbladder problems.
Causes of a yellow tongue include:
- Black hairy tongue
- Geographic tongue
When to see a doctor
Medical treatment for yellow tongue usually isn’t necessary. If tongue discoloration bothers you, try gently brushing your tongue with a solution that is 1 part hydrogen peroxide and 5 parts water. Rinse your mouth with water afterward. Quitting smoking and increasing fiber in your diet also may help by decreasing the bacteria in your mouth that cause yellow tongue.
Schedule a doctor’s visit if:
- You’re concerned about persistent discoloration of your tongue
- Your skin or the whites of your eyes also appear yellow, as this may suggest jaundice