Dental Problems

Black Tongue Disease – An Overview

tnge-cancerBlack tongue is also known as lingua nigra and black hairy tongue. The NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders) says that black tongue is a very rare and harmless condition. This disorder of black tongue might have an unsightly look, but it generally goes away without any treatment on its own. In this article, there is a brief discussion on the overview of black tongue disease.


  • Black tongue disease is characterized by its black or dark brown discoloration along with the stained appearance over the surface of the tongue.
  • This may also appear furry or hairy.
  • This benign condition of the tongue causes a metallic taste and bad breath inside the mouth. Some individuals with black tongue disease might have an urge or desire to gag.

How does it develop?

  • Black tongue disorder generally occurs due to poor oral and tongue hygiene.
  • It generally develops when the papillae (containing the taste buds), protrusions on the tongue grow longer than the normal range as they are designed to.
  • Generally, these papillae are shed naturally during the daily activities like brushing, eating and cleaning the tongue.
  • Due to improper hygiene or other reasons, these papillae build up and have a furry or hairy appearance. It also creates a suitable environment for the micro flora inside the mouth.
  • Thus, due to the growth and accumulation of bacteria, fungus, debris, etc there is an discoloration associated with this condition.


According to the Mayo Clinic, the exact reason or the cause of black tongue disease is often doubtful or uncertain.

  1. Some of the possible triggers include poor or insufficient oral hygiene, witch hazel, menthol, mouth washes containing peroxide or frequent use of tobacco.
  2. Along with this, certain medications such as the Pepto-Bismuth which contain bismuth (this is a mineral which shows beneficial effects within the intestinal tract) are known to cause this condition.
  3. A sudden change in the amount of oral flora like yeast or bacteria just after the use of antibiotics might contribute to the black tongue condition.


Although the condition or disorder of black tongue comes in and goes away naturally, but if the symptoms and signs continue to appear and make you worry for more than 10 days even after proper brushing then you can consult your dentist or doctor. In most cases, the medical treatment for the black tongue disease is not so necessary.


There are many preventive measures that can be taken to avoid the condition of black tongue.

  1. Practicing good oral and dental hygiene regularly helps to prevent blank tongue. Brushing tongue and teeth after every meal and flossing at least once daily.
  2. Eliminating the intake of medicines containing bismuth is a good remedy to prevent black tongue disorder.
  3. Eliminating possible triggers also helps to prevent black tongue.
  4. The National Institute of Health also says that a healthy nutritious diet might also help to prevent black tongue.
  5. Regular dental checkups also help prevent black tongue with professional cleanings and oral examinations.
  6. Ensure that you drink plenty of water as dehydration or insufficient fluids can also lead to black tongue. Include intake of at least minimum of 8 glasses of water in your daily regime.
  7. Avoid chewing tobacco products as it can lead to blackening of surface of the tongue with a fuzzy or a strange structure. This might persist on and off till the person continues the use of tobacco.
  8. Avoid smoking cigarettes as they also show the same effect similar to the use of tobacco.
  9. Consult your doctor if you would like to skip the prescribed medications.

This condition is usually not harmful but it the symptoms persist, then it can be the indication of some other medical problem. In such a case, immediately consult your doctor or dentist to find the exact cause and opt for the best treatment.

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