It is common to have a green tongue after you eat or drink something that leaves color on your tongue.

However, an unexplained change in the color of your tongue can be a sign of an underlying medical condition.

Most often when you eat something that contains green food color in it, it can leave a stain on your tongue, that goes away on its own.

On the other hand, an infection or overgrowth of certain germs is often the cause of a green tongue.

There are a number of other conditions that can also affect the color of your tongue.

These conditions can be oral lichen planus, oral thrush, hairy tongue, leukoplakia, etc.

In this article, let’s look at the different causes, diagnoses, and treatments of green tongue in detail.

Causes of Green Tongue

A green tongue can occur due to a number of reasons and often starts off as a white tongue.

However, changes to the green tongue with time after drinking, eating, or certain medications occur.

The number of reasons that can cause a green tongue is as follows:

  • Graphic tongue
  • hairy tongue syndrome
  • lichen planus
  • oral cancer
  • oral thrush
  • leukoplakia
  • syphilis

Let’s discuss them as follows:

Geographic Tongue

A geographic tongue causes harmless lesions on the tongue that can change its color.

In the beginning, the lesions that occur as a result of geographic tongue, appear red with raised borders.

However, these borders can change to a green color over time.

Other symptoms of the graphic tongue are:

Irregular lesions on the tongue are smooth and can vary in shape and size.

geographic tongue

Lesions on the tongue can also appear to ‘migrate’ or move from one area of the tongue to another over time, and this can be over days or even weeks.

These lesions also appear and disappear frequently.

Some mild feelings of discomfort or burning on the tongue can also occur and can affect your mouth as well.

Another symptom of a graphic tongue is extra sensitivity on the tongue, especially to certain substances or foods and drinks.

These items include:

Cigarette smoke, toothpaste, mouthwashes, sugary or sweet food, and spicy or acidic foods.

Hairy Tongue Syndrome

The hairy tongue can occur when a certain type of cell on the tongue does not shed the cells as it should.

This can give your tongue a rough or ‘hairy’ texture or appearance.

This rough surface creates a place for bacteria and yeast to thrive on and can cause discoloration of your tongue, thus, causing a green hue.

A color change is even more common after you eat certain types of foods or drinks or certain products that contain green color.

Other symptoms of hairy tongue are as follows:

A burning sensation on the tongue, gagging or tickling due to lengthened cells on your tongue.

Moreover, it can result in a bad breath that occurs due to bacteria or yeast growing on the tongue.

Abnormal taste on the tongue or a lack of taste that occurs by the covered taste buds.

Lichen Planus

Oral lichen planus is a rash-like condition that can cause discoloration of your tongue.

Usually, lichen planus on the tongue occurs as a white color, however, it can change to green in the shade when the bacteria or yeast begins to grow.

Moreover, certain foods or drinks that you consume or certain products you use can cause a change in the color of the tongue.

green tongue 1

Other symptoms of lichen planus are as follows:

Swirling white lesions in your mouth, which can be painful or cause a burning sensation.

While lesions in the mouth change their color due to the presence of bacteria, yeast, foods, drinks, or products you use to clean your mouth.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can often cause growths and lesions on the tongue that change the color when bacteria or yeast begins to grow on it.

Additionally, when you consume certain food or drinks or when using certain products in your mouth, it can cause such growth.


Symptoms of oral cancer are as follows:

A sore or lesion on the tongue that does not heal after a few weeks, a mass or growth on your tongue, and bleeding on the tongue.

Moreover, dramatic weight loss, numbness in the lower lip, face, neck, or chin, and patches on the tongue that are white, red, and white, or red or green in color as symptoms of oral cancer.

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is an overgrowth of yeast in your tongue and inside the mouth.

It is due to an overgrowth of fungus that is naturally found in your mouth.

This fungal overgrowth often looks white, however, can turn green as the infections sets in.

Other symptoms of oral thrush are as follows:

oral thrush

White bumps on the tongue or your tonsils, bleeding when the bumps are scraped by your teeth or a toothbrush.

Pain at the location of the bumps in the mouth and trouble swallowing.

It is important to note that in infants, symptoms of oral thrush include trouble feeding, fussiness, and irritability.


Leukoplakia causes a white patch in your mouth or on the tongue which can become green or discolor over time.

It is often linked to alcohol and tobacco use. Moreover, this condition is usually painless and harmless, however, your doctor will still want to monitor your symptoms as it can turn into cancer in some cases.

Leukoplakia can occur in your gums, the insides of your cheeks, the bottom of your mouth, and beneath your tongue.

In some cases, it can also develop on the tongue and is often not noticeable.

It may appear white or grayish in patches that you are unable to wipe away, irregular or flat-textured.

Moreover, they can be thick or hard in certain areas and along with raised, red lesions, they are more likely to show precancerous changes.


This is a bacterial infection that can be sexually transmitted or passed from a mother to child during pregnancy.

As a result of this infection, you can develop a sore on the tongue that changes over time. However, if you do not get treatment, multiple sores can appear in your mouth.

Moreover, this disease can be contagious during the primary and secondary stages, and occasionally in the early latent phase.

The symptoms of Primary Syphilis are one or more painless, firm, and round syphilitic sores or chancres.

These can appear 10 days to 3 months after the bacteria enter your body, however, chancres resolve with 2 to 6 weeks.

But without treatment, the disease or bacteria remains in your body and can progress to the next stage.


On the other hand, the symptoms of Secondary Syphilis are:

Sores that resemble oral, anal, or genital warts, muscle aches, fever, a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and headaches.

Moreover, patchy hair loss, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, and a non-itchy, red, or brown rash that starts on the trunk and spreads to the entire body are the symptoms.

It is important to note that these symptoms can resolve a few weeks after they first appear.

They might also appear several times over a longer period.

Without treatment, secondary syphilis can progress to the latent and tertiary stages.

Other Causes of Green Tongue

Other possible causes of the green tongue are as follows:

Poor dental hygiene, antibiotics, throat or upper respiratory infection that spreads to the tongue, and illicit drug use.

A discharge from an infected tongue, temporary color changes due to food colors in candy, sweets, or oral hygiene products.

And temporary color changes due to supplements or foods containing chlorophyll can also cause it.

Diagnosis of Green Tongue

In some cases, your doctor or dentist can diagnose a green tongue by simply looking at it or with a visual examinator,

Your doctor or dentist will ask about the symptoms you are experiencing and may also look for other signs of an infection.

visiting a doctor

They may order a biopsy if they suspect that there is a chance of cancer somewhere on the tongue.

Moreover, they can also use one or more image tests to see if the cancer cells have spread.

Treatment of Green Tongue

Treatment of the green tongue varies and depends on the underlying causes. Most often your doctor will recommend antibiotics if they are confident that your green tongue is due to bacteria.

However, if they suspect that a fungal infection is causing it, they will prescribe an antifungal medication like nystatin, fluconazole, or clotrimazole.

For the treatment of oral leukoplakia, they will prescribe vitamin A or retinoids, however, this will not always resolve the symptoms.

Antihistamines or corticosteroids can help treat the inflammation in the tongue or mouth.

OTC, over-the-counter medications, or pain relievers like ibuprofen, or acetaminophen can provide some relief, depending on your symptoms.

treatment of green tongue

The treatment for oral cancer varies from one individual to another and may also include nutritional changes, chemotherapy, and surgery.

Moreover, for the treatment of all the cases of the green tongue, proper oral hygiene is important to support the treatment.

Certain steps you can take to encourage healing are as follows:

Brush your teeth twice a day and tongue regularly.

Make sure to floss daily to reduce the overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth brushing and flossing gently to avoid causing cuts in the mouth.

Avoid mouthwashes that have harsh chemicals or high alcohol levels, raise your mouth with salt water, and drink enough water.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend using or taking probiotic foods or supplements to increase the number of good bacteria in the body.

Tongue Scraping for Green Tongue

Tongue scraping can also help to remove temporary stains from food coloring, however, it is often a sign of an overgrowth of harmful germs in the mouth.

It is not a cure for the green tongue, however, can help support the doctor-recommended medication or the treatment plan.

Moreover, it can work best when you add it to the daily oral hygiene routine, along with brushing and flossing.

It is best to consult your doctor or dentist before starting this process as it may not be harmful in all cases.

Final Thoughts

If the green tongue is not due to food colors it is often due to the overgrowth of harmful germs, bacteria, or yeast in your mouth.

Whether it is due to yeast overgrowth or another type of infection, it is essential to seek medical treatment if the discoloration does not go away in a few days or tends to come back.

Many cases of green tongue need medical treatment.

Thus, following the treatment plan as devised by your doctor is the best way to resolve the underlying medical issues.