Dehydrated Tongue: Is White Tongue a Sign of Dehydration?

dehydrated tongue

Dehydration occurs due to insufficient fluid in the body to maintain normal bodily functions and can be predicted via several signs and symptoms. The condition should not be taken lightly.

When you’re dehydrated, your tongue may feel rough or have a white coating. Even though most of the reasons for a white tongue are not serious, bad oral hygiene is a common cause. Improving oral hygiene can help get rid of a white tongue caused by bad oral hygiene, but you should see a doctor if you don’t know what’s wrong or if you have other symptoms. To keep your tongue from turning white, you must drink enough water and take care of your teeth.

Let’s read more about the white tongue and dehydration in this article.

White tongue and Dehydration

The first symptom to pay heed to is feeling thirsty. Do not ignore thirst and have water from time to time. Also, continue having water in frequent intervals even if you are sick.

Saliva production is reduced when the body is dehydrated in order to conserve fluid. As a result, you might feel dryness in your mouth and lips.

A white patch on the tongue can also occur due to dehydration. The tongue has red projections all over known as papillae. Papillae have taste buds and also provide friction which helps in breaking down the food in the mouth.

How do you know if it is dehydration?

Checkout for other symptoms signalling dehydration. The best way to do the same is by noticing the color and smell of urine. The urine will be darker in color and more aromatic if you are dehydrated. 

Other than that look out for symptoms like weakness, diarrhea, and dizziness.

Dehydrated Tongue Symptoms

A dehydrated tongue will be rougher in texture and can have a white patch due to diminished saliva production.  Other than that, one can also feel dryness in the mouth and lips.

Dehydrated Tongue Treatment

The treatment of a dehydrated tongue can be something as simple as drinking ample water. Sounds easy, but it can alleviate the symptoms right away. 

In case you notice the symptoms persist even after having a good amount of water for more than a day, please consider consulting a doctor.

White Tongue Diseases

White patches on the tongue can be a sign of various illnesses and not just dehydration. Examining the tongue from time to time can help in the early diagnosis of various medical conditions.

Here is the list of other white tongue diseases:

1) Geographic tongue

It is a chronic condition projecting a patch on the tongue. Characterized by the red patch surrounded by a white border, it looks like a map, hence the name. It usually has no symptoms but can cause a burning sensation which can be treated with an ointment.

2) Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia is found mostly in men and can be seen as white elevated patches with a wrinkled appearance. The patches cannot be scraped and are mostly found in people who have a history of smoking and drinking alcohol. 

3) Oral Candidiasis

Oral candidiasis is a fungal infection with patches in the mouth. It is also characterized by a foul smell and taste in the mouth. If the patches are scraped, it gets wiped off leaving a red lesion behind. Oral candidiasis mostly occurs in someone with a weakened immune system.

4) Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is an autoimmune condition and can also occur in the mouth. Oral lichen planus can be diagnosed by the patches on the tongue which look like a spiderweb.  It can also lead to serious complications and timely diagnosis and treatment are necessary. 

Steroids are administered to help with the symptoms of Oral Lichen Planus.

5) Frictional Keratosis

As the name suggests these patches occur due to friction or injury. The patches look similar to the ones in leukoplakia. It heals in a matter of two weeks without any external help.

6) Oral cancer

Oral cancer can manifest as an ulcer or a lesion on the tongue. Seek help, if the ulcer does not heal on its own and if it bleeds easily. A Biopsy is usually done to confirm the diagnosis. 

Several other white lesions are indicative of underlying conditions. White lesions usually are not serious and heal on their own. If the patch or the lesion does not heal on its own even after a month, kindly seek an expert opinion.

Differential Diagnosis

At first, if you notice a white or grey patch in the mouth, consider maintaining proper hygiene and scraping the tongue regularly. 

Stay hydrated and the patch should go on its own if it is due to dehydration. 

Another common reason can be oral thrush also known as candidiasis which is a fungal infection. To know the difference remember, oral thrush has a curdled milk appearance and is often accompanied by a foul smell and taste. 

Other lesions can also have specific color and appearances. Consider consulting a doctor if the patch persists for more than 2 weeks.


Dehydration is not a serious situation but can have serious consequences if ignored. Have sufficient water throughout the day to avoid being dehydrated. The body signals if it’s dehydrated, try to notice and stay hydrated.

 Poor oral hygiene can also form grey patches on the tongue. Maintain good oral hygiene including flossing and scraping the tongue every day. The patch should go away on its own.

The tongue can point out many underlying conditions, try to clean and notice your tongue regularly while brushing your teeth.

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