Changes in the color of tongue is something you get to see often when you eat colored food substances but if the change is long lasting and not just temporary which washes away, you need to see if it is related to any medication or underlying medical condition. Eating colored food like, candy, popsicle or ice cream, chinese food or any food substance which contains food coloring can lead to temporary change in color of tongue. You need to start worrying about the change in color of your tongue if you have not eaten any colored food and the color lasts for more than 24 hours.
So let us look at the most common changes in color of the tongue and their causes:
Orange Color Tongue:
The dorsal or top surface of the tongue which is pink or red in color looks Orange in color, there can be many reasons for it and let us look at each of them in detail.
Poor Oral Hygiene: It is important to keep your tongue clean while you brush your teeth as the surface of the tongue is exposed to all the food substances which we eat. Using a Tongue cleaner regularly is a must. Food Substances which consist of Beta Carotene are the most likely cause of Orange discoloration of tongue surface. Carrot, Beetroot, mangoes, papaya, pumpkins, using Tobacco, Pan or Ghutka, drinking coffee, tea etc are some of the most common food substance which might lead to orange colored tongue.
Dry Mouth or Xerostomia
Oral Thrush or Candidiasis: It is a Fungal infection which usually appears White in color, but it also appears Yellow or Orange due to pigmentation of the lesions.
Medicines causing Orange Tongue: There are certain medicines which lead to orange discoloration of the tongue while the medicine is used. The most common medicine which leads to orange tongue is Rifampin (Rifampicin) used to treat Tuberculosis. The other less common medications used are amiodarone, bleomycin, chloroquine, chlorpromazine, doxorubicin, hydroxychloroquine, minocycline, quinacrine, quinidine etc. The color from medicines is usually because of the substance used to cover the medicine surface, so the discoloration can be avoided by swishing or gargling water after taking the tablet.
Yellow Colored Tongue:
Most of the causes of Orange tongue can be the causes of Yellow tongue when the color intensity diminishes it appears yellow. Other common reasons or causes of Yellow tongue are Jaundice (due to increase in bilirubin).
Black Colored Tongue:
One of the most common causes of Black tongue is due to Hairy Leukoplakia or Hairy tongue. The other reason for Black tongue is due to medicines which contain Bismuth as a component.
White Colored Tongue:
Most common cause is Oral Thrush or Candidiasis which appear as patches on the surface of the tongue which are scrapable and leave a red colored lesion. Poor Oral Hygiene is also a reason for Whitish discoloration of the surface of tongue. Leukoplakia lesions also turn the dorsal surface of the tongue white. The surface of the tongue turns white when you suffer from Fever. Other diseases which lead to white tongue are dehydration, syphilis etc.
Bright Red Colored Tongue:
Most common cause of Red Tongue is Glossitis or inflammation of the tongue which can be due to multiple reasons. Red Tongue is sometimes called as Strawberry Tongue which is seen in Scarlet fever or Kawasaki disease (commonly sen in children).
Treatment of discoloration of tongue is to treat the underlying condition which is the most common reason.