Black Hairy Tongue

Black hairy tongue is a harmless and painless tongue condition which gives the tongue a scary dark appearance. The distinct appearance of black hairy tongue is due to overgrowth of bacteria or fungi on the tongue. Though this condition looks frightening, it will not cause any health problems. It can be easily remedied by a good oral hygiene.

Causes of Black Hairy Tongue

Black hairy tongue results from projections called papillae on the tongue that grow longer and do not shed like normal. This gives the tongue a hairy like appearance.  Usually, the papillae are pinkish white in color. However, as they elongate, pigments from foods, drinks, mostly the bacteria, yeast, and debris get accumulated in these papillae, giving the tongue a black, brown or yellow discoloration.

The potential causes of black hairy tongue include:

  • Changes in the bacteria or yeast content of the mouth that happens with antibiotic use
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Drinking excess of tea or coffee
  • Intake of medications containing bismuth chemical, such as Pepto-Bismol
  • Regular use of mouthwashes which contain witch hazel, menthol or peroxide
  • Getting radiation therapy to the neck and head
  • Producing very low amounts of saliva

This tongue condition is more likely to occur in men who are on intravenous medications and are HIV affected.

Symptoms of Black Hairy Tongue

Other than black hairy appearance of the tongue, the affected people don’t show any more symptoms. Very mild symptoms arise that include:

  • Tickling sensation in the roof of the mouth
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Burning sensation on the tongue
  • Gagging sensation in a few
  • Bad breath

Treatment for Black Hairy Tongue

The only best way to treat this condition is to maintain good oral hygiene. Brush the teeth twice a day and also brush the tongue using a soft bristled toothbrush.  Use a tongue scraper to thoroughly clean the area.  Drink good amounts of water to keep your mouth clean.

Other ways to treat the black hairy tongue include:

  • Quitting smoking and tobacco products
  • Take more roughage diet as soft foods will not clean the tongue effectively

When these above ways will not help in treating the condition, consult your dentist. Your dentist may suggest anti-fungal drugs or antibiotics to fight against bacteria or fungus. Also topical medications like tretinion are suggested sometimes.  If none of these work, the papillae are surgically removed with electrosurgery  or laser.