Many things can cause the roof of your mouth to look pale or yellow, including poor hygiene and mouth breathing. Seek medical care if the color change is accompanied by pain or bleeding in your mouth.

There are several possible reasons that the roof of your mouth is yellow. This includes poor oral hygiene, untreated infections, or other underlying medical conditions.

Most causes of a yellow roof of the mouth are not serious. However, a few causes require medical attention, such as jaundice, certain infections, and oral cancer.

Like having a yellow tongue, oral health, bacteria, and other infections all play a role in why the roof of your mouth might be yellow.

Poor oral hygiene

Poor oral hygiene can lead to a buildup of bacteria in the mouth. When these bacteria multiply, it can change the color of the inside of the mouth. This may cause the roof of your mouth and your tongue to turn yellow.

Other common symptoms of poor oral hygiene are bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums, and pain while chewing.

Dry mouth or mouth breathing

Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is caused when the salivary glands do not produce enough saliva. There can be a medical reason for this, including excessive mouth breathing.

One of the roles of saliva is to protect the mouth from the buildup of bacteria. Without enough saliva, bacteria can grow and turn the roof of your mouth yellow.

Other symptoms of dry mouth include bad breath, sticky saliva, and dry throat and tongue.

Oral thrush

Oral thrush is an overgrowth of yeast in the mouth. It can cause yellow patches and bumps on the roof of the mouth. Other symptoms of oral thrush include a burning mouth, cracked corners of the lips, and a lack of taste.

While oral thrush is not generally a dangerous condition, it can cause complications if it spreads to other parts of the body.

Canker sore

Canker sores are small, painful ulcers that appear inside of the mouth, including on the roof of the mouth. Canker sores may appear red or yellow in color. If canker sores appear on the roof of your mouth, they may cause this area to look yellow.

The symptoms of canker sores are generally mild, and sores heal within a few weeks. Canker sores that do not heal within a few weeks should be checked out by a dentist or doctor.

Oral herpes

Oral herpes is a herpes outbreak caused by the HSV-1 virus. These herpes sores can appear on the inside or outside of the mouth. Herpes sores on the roof of the mouth may appear yellow with pus.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the most common symptom before an outbreak is a tingling, itching sensation at the site of the outbreak.


Jaundice is a serious condition caused by the buildup of a yellow pigment called bilirubin. This buildup is most commonly caused by liver or gallbladder dysfunction. When bilirubin builds up in the blood, it may cause the roof of your mouth to turn yellow.

The most common symptoms of jaundice are yellow skin, yellow whites of the eyes, and flu-like symptoms. If you notice any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

Medications with bismuth

Bismuth subsalicylate is a medication used to treat an upset stomach. Pepto Bismol is a common bismuth-containing medication. According to research, the use of bismuth-containing medications can turn your tongue colors ranging from yellow to black. It may also cause the roof of your mouth to appear yellow.

Mouthwashes with oxidizing agents

There are a variety of different mouthwashes on the market. Some mouthwash formulations contain oxidizing ingredients, such as hydrogen peroxide. Using these types of mouthwash may cause your tongue and the roof of your mouth to turn yellow.

Tobacco smoke

Tobacco smoke is a risk factor for poor oral hygiene, among other conditions. Smoking is a potential cause of black hairy tongue, which cause the roof of your mouth to appear yellow.

Smoking is also a risk factor for oral thrush. Oral thrush patches can cause the roof of your mouth to appear yellow.

If additional symptoms appear when the roof of your mouth is yellow, it may be a sign of an underlying condition.

Roof of mouth is yellow and white

  • Oral thrush can cause yellow and white patches to appear on the roof of the mouth.
  • Leukoplakia is a condition that may cause white spots in the mouth. This condition is more serious because it can develop into oral cancer.

Roof of mouth is yellow with red spots

  • Oral herpes lesions can appear as red blisters on the roof of the mouth. Depending on the stage of the outbreak, these blisters may contain yellow pus.
  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a viral illness that can cause red spots to appear on the roof of the mouth.

Roof of mouth is yellow with a sore throat

  • Oral thrush can sometimes spread to the esophagus and lead to esophageal thrush, which causes a sore throat.
  • Pharyngitis is a bacterial or viral infection marked by a sore, scratchy throat. Strep throat is bacterial infection that causes a sore throat. It can be difficult to eat or drink with these throat infections. This may cause bacteria to build up and turn the roof of the mouth yellow.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Some underlying causes can be treated at home, while others require a doctor’s visit.

Immediate medical attention

Jaundice is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. If you notice any other symptoms of jaundice, seek out emergency medical care.

Leukoplakia is another serious condition that should be addressed by a medical professional for a full diagnosis and treatment options.

Improving oral hygiene

Poor oral hygiene, smoking, and using certain mouthwashes can all cause a yellow roof of the mouth. By improving your oral hygiene, you can keep your mouth clean and free of unwanted bacterial buildup. You can improve your oral hygiene by:

  • brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist regularly
  • avoiding tobacco products
  • avoiding mouthwash products with oxidizing agents

Treating infections with medication

Bacterial infections like strep throat can be treated with antibiotics. Fungal infections like oral thrush require antifungals. Medication cannot cure viral infections like herpes and certain types of pharyngitis, but some over-the-counter medications can help ease the symptoms.

If you’re taking Pepto Bismol or other bismuth-containing medications, consider making dietary changes that can help improve your gut health instead.

Other treatment options

Most canker sores clear up on their own without treatment, but topical pain relief and at-home rinses can help to relieve the pain.

Since dry mouth is generally only temporary, it can be treated at home by naturally increasing saliva production. This includes drinking water or chewing on sugarless candies, and avoiding things like smoking, alcohol, coffee, and too much salt.

You should see a doctor immediately if you notice a yellow roof of the mouth along with other symptoms of jaundice. You should also see a doctor if the roof of your mouth is painful or bleeding, or you find it difficult to swallow food and drink.

There are several underlying medical causes of a yellow roof of the mouth. In most cases, a yellow roof of the mouth can be improved with better oral hygiene.

In other situations, a yellow roof of the mouth can indicate an infection or condition that needs to be treated. If you’re concerned you may have a more serious condition, schedule a visit with a doctor.