Spots on the tongue can be uncomfortable, but they’re usually not serious. If spots are an unusual color, cause irritation, they can be the sign of a health problem. Oral thrush, canker sores and leukoplakia are the most common causes of white spots on the tongue. Other causes of red and white spots are trauma, vitamin deficiencies (i.e. B12), antibiotics, smoking, canker sores, geographic tongue, and cancer.

Different Causes of Spots on Tongue

Oral Thrush: A yeast infection known as oral thrush. It is an overgrowth of a naturally occurring fungus, often appears when the immune system is depressed. It’s rarely serious, but a long-term infection may require treatment. Oral thrush symptoms include –

  • White patches in other areas of the mouth.
  • Loss of taste.
  • Cotton mouth or dry mouth.
  • Lesions that look like cottage cheese.
  • Red, cracked corners of the mouth and lips.

Canker Sores: A white spot on the tongue surrounded by a red, inflamed halo is probably a canker sore. Canker sores are often painful and scraping doesn’t remove them.

Geographic Tongue: It appears as smooth, red spots of an irregular shape on the side or top of your tongue. It’s harmless and usually clears up on its own, but it can take weeks or months. You may have pain or a burning sensation, especially after eating foods that are:

  • Spicy
  • Salty
  • Acidic
  • Hot

Tongue Burn: If a person burns their tongue on hot food or liquid, it can cause blisters. Blisters will heal more quickly if they remain unbroken.

Leukoplakia: White or grayish patches called leukoplakia usually appear on the gums, the bottom of the mouth or the insides of the cheeks, but sometimes they appear on the tongue as well. Chewing or smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol causes leukoplakia.

Hairy Leukoplakia: Fuzzy white patches that appear on the sides of the tongue as ridges or folds are symptoms of hairy leukoplakia. These patches result from infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

Scarlet fever: It is a bacterial infection in the nose and throat. Its key symptom is a red, bumpy tongue and other symptoms include-

  • A red, sore throat
  • Fever
  • A red, blotchy rash that usually starts on the chest and stomach
  • Headache
  • Stomach pains

People should consider seeing a dentist or doctor for:

  • Unusual spots on the tongue last longer than a week
  • Spots that bleed, become more painful, or spread

Treatment for Tongue Spots
Treatment may include removal of the cause of trauma, antibiotics, anti-viral medication, anti-fungal medications, creams, rinses, and tongue scraping.

Preventive Tips
To keep the mouth, teeth, and tongue healthy, dentists usually recommend:

  • Brushing teeth twice per day
  • Flossing daily
  • Avoiding too much sugar