Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.
Tags: white | spots | tongue | cancer | oral

Are White Spots on My Tongue a Concern?

Thursday, 02 May 2013 10:34 AM

By Peter Hibberd, M.D.

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Question: I have had white splotches on my tongue and would like to know what may be causing them?

Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
 
Only a trained medical professional can identify the cause of white spots on your tongue. A biopsy may be needed, if the cause is not evident after a physical evaluation. One of three conditions come to mind:
 
1) Deep furrows and irregularities on the surface of the tongue can be a benign condition called a “geographic tongue,” and is not associated with any underlying medical concerns

2) If you have white plaques that seem fixed to the tissue, it may be what’s called leukoplakia This is a pre-cancerous condition. Leukoplakia of the tongue or oral tissues can be identified by biopsy and pathologic examination. Cancer of the tongue and mouth is mainly caused by tobacco use and small, whitish spots are often an early warning. A dentist, oral surgeon, ENT, or family doctor can evaluate it.
 
3) Soft, white patches that scrape clear may be caused by a simple superficial infection, most often from candida (yeast) overgrowth. Oral candidiasis (or thrush) is common in newborn infants, and is simply treated with topical anti-fungal medication for five to seven days. Thrush in adults is a warning to check for underlying diseases, especially diabetes and immune suppression. Oral thrush in adults is one of the primary criteria used in screening for suspected HIV infection. All young adults and others who suffer from oral candidiasis should be checked for HIV.
 

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Dr. Hibberd's advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital work in emergency medicine and surgery.
 
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