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Whitish Coating on Tongue The Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions

Dec 31, 1996

Rick, I have a thin, slightly whitish coating on my tongue. The coating is uniform throughout the surface of the tongue. It doesn't appear in patches and my cheek insides are clear. I'm HIV negative and I heard people talk about thrushes and leukoplakia. Does my situation sound like either one to you? If not, what else could cause a slightly whitish coating to appear on the tongue? Could it be stress/diet? Is this a fairly common condition among adults? Thanks and a Happy New Year to you and your family!!!

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

Diseases such as Oral Hairy Leukoplakia and Thrush are only seen in adults when there is a problem with the immune system. If a person has these infections, and they test HIV negative, it indicates that the problems are not AIDS related. Thrush appears as a thick cheesy coating on the tongue that can be scrapped off, and is due to a yeast infection in the mouth. Oral Hairy Leukoplakia resembles a whitish thickening of the oral tissues. Hairy Leukoplakia has been associated with both Epstein Barr Virus, and Human Papilloma virus. If you are HIV negative and have no other problems with the immune system, it would be doubtful that you have Thrush or Hairy Leukoplakia.

Whitish tongues can be due to numerous reasons, including things like smoking. To determine if you have anything abnormal, see your doctor or dentist. But based on what you told me, there's no reason to believe you have anything AIDS related. I hope this answered your questions. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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