What Causes Orange Tongue, How Is this Coating or Film Cured?


Why is my tongue orange? Can bacterial or yeast overgrowth, acid reflux or food debris be responsible color change?  Get all the possible causes and cures for this discoloration.

An orange tongue (film or coating ) refers to a discoloration that makes someone’s tongue to appear this color or have any of the shades of orange including yellowish, brownish orange, etc. It can affect young children (including babies and toddlers) as well as adults.

While in some people, the discoloration or coating is common at night while sleeping or when they wake up in the morning, to others, it is constant.

Furthermore, sometimes it may be in patchy, spotty or furry. Here is a patient's experience:

“I wake up take a shower brush my teeth and go to work and then I have this orangish color on my tongue that has a bad odor and I can't make it go away”. – freezer143


Besides your change in color, other common symptoms include unpleasant taste, dryness and bad breath. A few patients have reported burning sensation, sore throat, among other symptoms.


Diagnosis will vary from physical observation to conducting a biopsy where a small tissue is extracted from your tongue for further close examination.

Why is my tongue orange

If you have this issue, there are many possible causes. Some of these causes are harmless while others might indicate an impending ill health condition that needs your attention. Unless you are certain on what could be causing it, go to a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. So, what causes it?

1. Food debris

According to Dr. Jonathan Richards, an endodontic, while answering a question on healthtap.com notes that the “foods and drinks can cause your tongue to be orange” i.e. the color of medications, lozenges, foods or drinks.  If ignored for a long time, this can contribute to a foul breath.

If it is due to food debris, use a scraper or brush to remove them. Once you have done that, the yellowish film or coat will be gone too. This will also give you a fresher breath.

2. Bacteria and yeast

A second possible cause is superficial bacteria and/or yeast overgrowth. To tell that yeast and/or bacterial overgrowth is the possible cause, check for symptoms such as a “bad breath or burning sensation on the tongue” [newhealthguide.org].

For instance, Ramichloridium schulzeri fungus tends to be “golden orange on Sabouraud's glucose agar and brown-gray on corn-meal agar [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]” and can be responsible for the golden color.

A simple cure for this is eating yogurt with live culture daily for about a week to bring this overgrowth down. Also, brush the surface of your tongue at least twice in a day.  If the symptoms do not subside, see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

3. Acid reflux 

One of the main causes of this discoloration is acid reflux or heartburn i.e. according to Dr. Oz, “If you notice a white, yellow, or orange coating, it could indicate acid reflux, which, in severe cases, can lead to esophageal cancer” [doctoroz.com].

Acid reflux happens when the one-way valve at the bottom of the esophagus opens up to let acidic content in your stomach to move up your throat to the back of your tongue making it orange or yellowish orange.

This often happens while you are sleeping at night and you are likely to wake up in the morning with an orange coat or film. Most people who have acid reflux might not be aware they have it.

To manage acid reflux, take medications such as Prilosec (omeprazole),  antacids such as tums, Alka-seltzer, Maalox or Pepto-Bismol and change your lifestyle and eating habits i.e. avoid acidic foods (oranges, citrus fruits or lemons), spicy or fatty foods, alcohol, garlic, onion, tomatoes, coffee or tea, carbonated beverages, etc.

Furthermore, quit smoking, elevate your head while sleeping, don’t lie down immediately after eating (i.e. wait for 2 to 3 hours), eat smaller meals frequently, etc.

4. Use of antibiotics

The use of antibiotics can at times disrupt the normal natural flora in your mouth. When this happens, a microorganism imbalance is created and one might end up with a change in color.

One user on medhelp.org shares a similar experience i.e.

“I was on the Prevpac for a few weeks and then Doxycycline for my acne shortly afterward. After starting Doxycycline, I started to notice my tongue was orange usually by the end of the day” [medhelp.org] - guest866

What to do if antibiotics cause the color 

To restore the normal balance after antibiotic use, take anti-fungal medications or herbs such as oregano and garlic to keep virus, fungus, and yeast under control.

In addition, try herbal tea that contains lemongrass to help restore the balance in your mouth, take probiotics twice a day and/or eat live culture yogurt

5. Mold in your environment

Having an environment with molds could lead to this problem i.e. “Orange tongue can also be caused due to the presence of mold in the environment at home or at work” [newhealthguide.org].

To solve this problem, get rid of the mold in your environment and try natural remedies such as gargling or taking grapefruit seeds orally.  Anti-fungal medications might be of little help if you do not get rid of the molds in your environment.

 6. STD or HIV

To clarify, this tongue color is not a symptom of HIV, STDs or cancer, unless it comes with other symptoms. However, people with weakened or compromised immunity due to STDs or terminal illnesses including HIV,  Cancer, untreated diabetes, etc. will tend to often suffer from yeast overgrowth, which can make be responsible for the discoloration.

7. Other causes

Other possible causes include allergies and oral thrush (which is a kind of yeast infection).

Orange spots

If you have such, the most probable cause is a fungal infection. If the spots are at the back of your tongue, it is likely that you have a throat fungal infection, which might come with a foul smell and a sore throat.

On babies

If your baby has a white, yellow or orange coatings, it could be due to oral thrush. Sometimes, instead of being white, oral thrush can cause this color. If not oral thrush, it could any other cause we have mentioned.

Treatments and cure

While looking at each possible causes, we mentioned the recommended cures for each.  We are going to mention a few general tips and precautions that might be useful to anyone who has this problem.

1. Good oral hygiene

An easy way to deal with this problem is to keep good oral hygiene. Brush your tongue in forward strokes from the back towards its tip.

Furthermore, try using various mouthwashes such as Listerine Antiseptic Mouthwash, Mouthwash Outlast Long Lasting Mint or ACT Total Care Rinse or Scope.

2. Change your diet

Avoid foods that promote yeast growth or cause acid reflux. Some of the foods you should avoid include coffee, candy, alcohol, white bread or any sugary foods, as well as excessive use of spices. Furthermore, reduce carbohydrate consumption with an exception of yucca, potatoes, oatmeal, bananas, and plantains. Finally, reduce the consumption of dairy products except for yogurt, which is very helpful.

Our references and sources
  • http://www.newhealthguide.org/Why-Is-My-Tongue-Orange.html
  • https://www.healthtap.com/user_questions/958079
  • http://www.doctoroz.com/article/lazy-girl-guide-getting-healthy?page=3
  • http://www.medhelp.org/posts/Ear--Nose--Throat/Orange-tongue/show/7117
  • https://www.healthtap.com/topics/orange-spots-on-tongue
  • http://www.webanswers.com/health/what-causes-an-orange-color-on-tongue-2c0e41
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3860191