Black Hairy Tongue

Black hairy tongue is a temporary, harmless condition caused by bacteria or fungi in the mouth that make the tongue appear black and hairy. It can be easily cured by good old-fashioned oral hygiene.

What are the Symptoms of Black Hairy Tongue

  • Black discoloration of your tongue, although the color can be brown, tan, green, yellow or white
  • A hairy or furry appearance of the tongue
  • Changed taste or metallic taste in your mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Gagging or tickling sensation, if the overgrowth of the papillae is excessive

What are the Causes of Black Hairy Tongue

It is caused by excess bacteria or yeast growth in your mouth. The bacteria accumulation occurs on tiny rounded projections known as papillae on the surface of the tongue. The papillae, instead of shedding, start to grow and lengthen, forming hair-like projections. They may possibly grow to 15 times their normal length.

Generally, the papillae are pinkish-white. However as they grow, pigments from food, drinks, and maybe the bacteria or yeast themselves get caught in the papillae, dyeing the tongue a color. Mostly that color is black, that's why the name. But the tongue may also turn brown, yellow, green, or a range of other colors.

Some lifestyle habits and conditions can make people more prone to get black hairy tongue. They may include:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Tobacco use
  • Consuming a lot of coffee or tea
  • Using antibiotics that may disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in your mouth
  • Dehydration
  • Taking medicines which contain the chemical bismuth
  • Inadequate making of saliva
  • Using mouthwash which contains peroxide, witch hazel, or menthol
  • Getting radiation therapy to the head and neck

How to Diagnose Black Hairy Tongue

Diagnosis for the condition depends on appearance and possible causes or contributing factors. It also involves eliminating other conditions which may cause a similar appearance to the tongue, like:

  • Normal difference in tongue color (pigment)
  • Foods or medicines that have stained the tongue
  • Viral or fungal infections
  • Oral lesions which occur on the tongue, like oral hairy leukoplakia
  • Blackened tongue due to using products containing bismuth

Treatment of Black Hairy Tongue

Having good oral hygiene is the best method to treat black hairy tongue. Softly brush your teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush and brush your tongue also. You may use a tongue scraper to clean your tongue thoroughly. Drinks ample of water throughout the day to aid keep your mouth clean.

  • Quit smoking
  • Add extra roughage to your diet. Soft foods won't clean off the tongue well.

Call your dentist if the problem doesn't improve on its own. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal drugs to remove the bacteria or yeast. Topical medications are also sometimes given .However, if the problem doesn't improve, the papillae may be surgically clipped off with a laser or by electrosurgery.

Lifestyle and home remedies

  • Brush your tongue twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush using fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss at least once a day to removes food particles and plaque from between your teeth.
  • Visit your dentist regularly as your dentist may prevent problems or spot them early. Your dentist may recommend a schedule for you.
  • Maintain good nutrition by drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet that contains fresh fruits and vegetables.

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