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Mark Bornfeld, DDS
Mark Bornfeld, DDS, Dentist
Category: Dental
Satisfied Customers: 6021
Experience:  Clinical instructor, NYU College of Dentistry; 37 years private practice experience in general dentistry, member Academy of General Dentistry, ADA, American Academy of Oral Medicine
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I have a film on my tongue. I can can scrape it of with my

Customer Question

I have a white film on my tongue. I can can scrape it of with my toothbrush or finger. Is this a sign of something or is it normal?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Dental
Expert:  Mark Bornfeld, DDS replied 5 years ago.
Welcome to JustAnswer, and thank you for putting your trust in me!

That depends-- some white films are normal, and some are not. Assuming that this white film is a phenomenon that represents a change from the usual and former condition of the tongue, this could not be considered normal.

Some white films are the result of either increased growth of the surface layer of tissue-- the epithelium-- in response to a chemical, thermal or physical irritant. For example, some mouthwashes, toothpastes, or chewing gums contain ingredients that can either irritate the tissues or provoke a contact sensitivity reaction, so if you've recently begun to use a new oral product, or habitually burn your tongue with hot beverages, this could be the culprit. Sometimes the surface epithelium can thicken-- rather than from accelerated tissue growth, but due to a reduced rate of tissue exfoliation, as might happen when the mouth is dry due to mouth breathing or from using medications that impair salivary secretion. These conditions are common during, for example, the active stages of an upper respiratory infection, when mouth breathing due to nasal obstruction and mouth drying medications are frequently used.

In addition to thickened surface epithelium, your description could also suggest an oral yeast infection, or "thrush"-- this is especially the case if the removal of the white film leaves a reddened or bleeding tissue surface. Thrush represents an "opportunistic infection-- a condition that is more provoked by local conditions than from any kind of contagion. Issues that may cause thrush include sustained antibiotic use, diabetes, or immune suppression due to medications or disease. Management of thrush involves the use of antifungal medication, and management of the underlying condition(s) that gave rise to the infection.

In any case, if the white film on your tongue does not resolve within a week or two, you should arrange for a diagnostic session with your dentist. Once the nature of the film has been identified, it will be possible to determine its significance, as well as an appropriate management approach.

Hope this helps...
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you for being so thorough. When I scratch my tongue it does not appear red, bleed, or hurt. There just seems to be more "stuff."
I just started using the mouth wash the beginning of this month. I actually might have noticed "something in my throat" around that time. It just feels like there is a layer of dead cells coming off, for a lack of a better term.
I did take 2 antibiotics from Dec 30 to Jan 8, but have been on Diflucan since then. I finished a 5 day 200mg dose yesterday.
I use the mouthwash 2 times a day...should I stop?
Expert:  replied 5 years ago.
Since you're already taking an antifungal, it would be reasonable to cover all your bases and stop the mouthwash as well. Most mouthwashes have alcohol and a number of artificial colors and flavors that are potential allergens, and they really don't offer much of any therapeutic effect. On balance, you're better off without mouthwashes, and since yours may be implicated as a cause for your complaint, a holiday from that mouthwash may clarify whether it is connected.

Hope this helps. If my answer has been helpful, please remember to click "accept".
Good luck!
Mark Bornfeld, DDS and 2 other Dental Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I went to a general practitioner today for my tongue. He said the white layer on my tongue looked nothing like thrush at all. :) However with that being said, he couldn't exactly say what he thought it was. It is just a velvety yellow/white later, actually when I rub it nothing really comes off, it just moves like velvet moves.
After brushing my teeth tonight (and tongue really well) it does not look nearly as white as it did last night. I did notice some enlarged bumps on the back of my tongue but I think those can be somewhat normal. I did eat spicy food (horseradish ) earlier tonight.
He did give me a prescription for Nystatin, mainly bc it wouldn't hurt anything. He said it should help get rid of the "hair like" feeling I sometimes have in the top of my mouth when I swallow. I have also changed from Colgate to Crest with Scope. I have been using the Crest 3D multicare wash for most of the month. I am also going to stop that. Could the peroxide be causing any of this as I use it 2 times a day?
Expert:  replied 5 years ago.
You hit the nail on the head-- I did not know you were using a peroxide-based mouthwash, and that could very well be the source of your problem. Peroxides, whether hydrogen peroxide, carbamyl peroxides (common in tooth whitening gels), or sodium perborate products (OTC mouthrinses, such as Vince or Amosan) can provoke a condition known as "hairy tongue".

Peroxides act as irritants, and cause a thickening of the surface epithelium. On the tongue they cause accelerated growth of the thousands of tiny bumps on its dorsal surface (the filiform papillae), and this gives rise to a coating that may vary in color from white, to yellow, to dark brown or black.

Besides being irritating, there is at least some theoretical support for the contention that peroxides are weak carcinogens-- all the more reason why peroxides should not be used for extended periods of time as mouthwashes. I suspect that stopping the use of your peroxide rinse will be beneficial, and will likely eliminate your complaint.

Good luck!
Mark Bornfeld, DDS and 2 other Dental Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
THANK YOU, ***** *****!!
Expert:  Mark Bornfeld, DDS replied 5 years ago.
You're welcome-- and thanks for coming through with that last bit of vital information!