Green and Orange Tongues: What Do They Mean?

Looking in the mirror and noticing your tongue has turned a funny color can be extremely alarming. In some cases, it might just be something you ate. Other common causes are poor oral hygiene or a medication you are taking. If none of these is the culprit, read on for other causes of a colored tongue.

What Causes an Orange Tongue?

Sometimes something simple like colored food can cause an orange tongue – maybe an orange popsicle, candy or other food or drink that contains a lot of artificial coloring. But, if your tongue is looking orange and you haven’t eaten anything that color lately, you may be wondering what else could be the cause.


Thrush is a yeast infection that can occur in the mouth from the fungi Candida. It can cause the tongue to appear white, yellow, green or even orange. Certain medications along with immune system deficiencies can also make some people more likely to experience the infection.

Too Many Carrots 

As funny as this sounds, an excess of beta carotene, the compound that gives many foods their orange color, especially carrots, can cause the skin and even tongue to take on an orange hue. The condition is called carotenemia. Other foods high in beta carotene are sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, papayas, pumpkins and mangoes.

What Causes a Green Tongue?

Just like with an orange tongue, sometimes the culprit is something you’ve eaten with a large amount of food coloring in it. But other times it can be a sign of a health problem. Here are a few potential causes of a green tongue.


Thrush can cause an orange, green, yellow or white tongue.


This condition is usually caused by alcohol or tobacco use and shows up as a white or greenish patch on the tongue. It’s usually harmless but should be evaluated by a professional.

Hairy Tongue 

This harmless condition occurs because of a buildup of keratin cells and gives the tongue a hairy texture and appearance. Sometimes it can look green.

Lichen Planus

This rash on the tongue is caused by a problem with the immune system. The mouth often shows us when something is wrong elsewhere in the body.

Oral Cancer

Although a rare cause of a colored tongue, anytime there are significant changes in the mouth, it’s important to see a dental professional as soon as possible to rule out anything more serious. 

To make an appointment with Dr. Norman today, call us at (425) 374-1608.