Why is your tongue green? What causes a green tongue? A green-colored tongue many be pale or dark green, yellowish-green or whitish-green, and the problem is common. It affects all ages, including infants, toddlers, children and adults, including the elderly.
Read on to learn more about green colored tongue, including its symptoms, causes and diagnosis.
Normal tongues are pink or reddish pink in color, with a coating of light white. However, various habits, conditions or diseases may cause your tongue to become purple, black, white, blue, orange, yellow or yes, green. What if you have a greenish tint to your tongue? What could it mean?
Causes of Green Tongue Coatings
Green coated tongue
Green coated tongue may be caused by a slime or film. It could affect the whole tongue or just part(s) of it. Usually it will affect the back of your tongue first.
Your tongue may not be bright green. It could be whitish-green, blue-green, dark green, yellowish-green or pale green. It depends on the underlying cause.
If your tongue is coated with a whitish, yellowish or greenish coating, it is likely oral thrush. Some people may continually experience the problem, until the underlying cause is treated. Others may tend to have a temporary greenish color to their tongue just when they wake up in the morning.
Signs & Symptoms of Green Tongue
In addition to a greenish color of the tongue, you may have other symptoms and signs that can lead you to the cause. The film may be thin or thick. The most common symptoms that come with a green tongue include:
- Swollen tongue
- Sore throat
- Nausea or vomiting
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Bad breath
Your specific symptoms matter a great deal, since they help your physician to make an accurate diagnosis. Then you’ll know what’s behind the film or coating.
Causes of Green Tongue
There are various causes of a greenish-colored tongue. They vary from medical conditions and diseases to specific habits. They may be systemic or local problems. Some of the common reasons for green tongue include:
- Hairy or furry green tongue
Hairy tongue syndrome is among the most common reasons for a rough, bumpy green tongue, especially if it is also furry, fuzzy, or if it has a hairy feeling. Your tongue may be yellowish-green, pale green, light green or whitish-green, brown or white. It may even take on other colors, depending on the foods you have eaten, especially candy and lollipops with theses colors in them. So, you can have a green tongue that also is hairy.
The American Academy of Oral Medicine refers to hairy tongue as that which occurs when the top surface of your tongue has an abnormal coating. It may occur when there is a keratin protein buildup on the tongue, even if there isn’t any surface stimulation or abrasion. In some of these cases, the papillae of the tongue may be long, with hair-like projections.
Unshed papillae, bacteria, food or yeast accumulation may also cause hairy tongue. Additionally, it is often brought on by smoking marijuana, overuse of tobacco, excessive use of tea, coffee or some antibiotics, neck & head radiation therapy, dehydration or poor oral hygiene, among other causes.
- Green thrush (oral candidiasis)
This is a fungal mouth and throat infection caused by the overgrowth of the fungus candida albicans. It causes a green, white or yellow tongue fungus. Often, it will present with white patches in the throat, tongue, palate or inner cheeks, accompanied by mouth pain and soreness, according to medicinenet.com.
In addition, if you take specific antibiotics or eat some foods, they can also coat your tongue with a yellowish-green, dark green, whitish or pale green film.
Anyone can experience oral thrush. It is especially prevalent in toddlers and babies, the elderly and people who have a weakened immune system, according to webmd.com. It is also more likely in people who have HIV infection, uncontrolled diabetes or cancer.
Other causes may include medications, like corticosteroids, birth control pills or certain antibiotics. The cause could also be pregnancy-related hormone fluctuations, smoking or dry mouth.
In order to know for sure if you have oral thrush, you should be seen by your physician. To treat this condition, your doctor will usually recommend anti-fungal medicines, in the form of tablets, liquid or lozenges. Do not confuse oral candidiasis with genital candidiasis. The latter is a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Other Green Tongue Causes
In addition to the conditions above, there are other possible reasons why your tongue may have a greenish hue. They include:
- Green tongue from marijuana
Smoking tobacco and weed is a possible cause of green tongue. Tobacco chewing can also result in a greenish tint to the tongue.
- Yellowish-green tongue after trauma or piercing
If you have a trauma to the tongue, including piercing, this can cause green or white mucus on the tongue. If the tongue is green, it may be infected, and you might see a discharge that is yellowish-green. In these cases, it’s likely that you have a bacterial infection.
- Mouth ulcers
Blisters, ulcers and sores on the tongue can make it appear green. This is especially true after you take certain medications and eat specific food types.
- Infection of the tongue
In addition to hairy tongue or oral thrush, other infections like a yeast infection can cause a green tongue.
- Irritation of the throat
Throat irritation and infections in the upper respiratory tract may lead to a green coating on the tongue, as well as green bumps or spots on your tongue, particularly the back of it.
- Some toothpastes and mouth washes
Some types of mouth wash and toothpaste have specific ingredients in them that could make the tongue appear green.
- Eating green colored food
Foods that are colored green, like lollipops and other candy, may cause your tongue to temporarily turn green. A discolored tongue can be caused by foods you have eaten. Your bowel movements may have a greenish tinge, too.
- Prolonged antibiotic use
Taking antibiotics for an excessive amount of time can cause a green tongue.
- Sore throat with green tongue
If you experience a sore throat and green tongue, you may have an infection in your upper respiratory system. Strep throat is the most commonly occurring cause of this type of infection. Other infections may include rhinitis, the common cold and sinus infection.
If you have strep throat, you may see green or whitish pus on your tonsils. You may have a bumpy green tongue and a sore throat. According to drreddy.com, you may have spots on the roof of your mouth and your uvula, and these may be dark red or nearly purple.
Green Tongue in Babies
When your baby develops a greenish tongue, check for black, hairy tongue or oral thrush. In addition, if the back of his tongue is discolored, it may be an upper respiratory infection.
The most common cause of green tongue in babies, infants or toddlers is oral thrush. White patches are most often seen, but they may appear green, particularly after certain foods and medicines.
Diagnosing Green Tongue
If you have a greenish-yellow, greenish-white or plain greenish tongue, you need to obtain the correct diagnosis, so that the condition can be successfully treated. This is especially important if the cause of your greenish tongue is a serious health issue.
Most of the time, green on the tongue does not indicate a serious or life-threatening illness. However, you should see your physician for a proper diagnosis and prompt treatment, if you note that the problem has not disappeared after two or three days on its own.
Treating Green Coated Tongue
The proper way to treat greenish tongue is to treat the underlying cause. That means you’ll need to have the issue diagnosed, before it is treated. Some ways you may deal with this issue include:
- Home remedies like honey and turmeric paste. They are high in antibacterial properties. Pastes like these also help to control oral thrush.
- Eat a well-balanced diet, and choose solid foods. Make sure you take in sufficient vitamin C, to build up your immunity.
- Observe proper oral hygiene. Brush your tongue and teeth twice a day or more, especially after meals. Try using a tongue scraper.
Green tongue isn’t an issue all its own. Rather, it can indicate various health problems. If it lasts just for a few days and no longer than a week, it is usually nothing to be concerned with.