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Managing chronic health issues, white spot on tongue

Created date

April 24th, 2015

Q. I had a white spot on my tongue. An oral surgeon removed it and fortunately it wasn’t cancerous—it was a callous. Now I’ve developed another one in a different place, but my dentist said there’s no need to operate. What could be the cause?

A. Non-cancerous white spots on your tongue could be due to a number of conditions, including a yeast infection, inflamed tissue, or frictional keratosis, which is essentially the oral counterpart of a skin callous. These spots can develop for a number of reasons such as misaligned teeth, smokeless tobacco, ingredients in some toothpastes, and even spices in gum or candy—especially cinnamon and peppermint. Treatment involves identifying and eliminating the source of irritation. 

Another potential cause of a white spot or patch in the mouth is leukoplakia, which is more serious because it can sometimes be associated with early cancer. Any new or persistent changes in your mouth or tongue should always be evaluated by an oral care professional. 

Q. I am in my late 80s and have several health problems, including hearing loss, chronic dizziness, asthma, constipation, and arthritis in my hip. I am fairly active, but what else can I do to manage all of these problems and make life more enjoyable?

A. Over half of people age 65 and up have two or more chronic health issues, and that number certainly rises with age. One of the most important ways to optimally maintain your health is by partnering with a doctor who is familiar with you and your health. Doctors who are proficient in the medical care of seniors—geriatricians in particular—know the best ways to manage the complex interplay of chronic conditions and how to simplify your medication regimen (when possible) to eliminate bothersome side effects, especially those that interfere with your quality of life. 

Leslie J. Rigali, D.O.

Medical Director,



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