Black hairy tongue: causes, symptoms and tips

Black hairy tongue is one of those conditions that looks alarming without being a serious health problem. As the name implies, it is a disease characterized by a dark tone on the tongue that looks like it has hair.

In reality, the black hairy tongue is a harmless and temporary condition. The usual thing is that it is solved only by eliminating the factor that causes it and that is usually related to oral hygiene. It is very rare that it causes pain or other symptoms.

What can cause the black hairy tongue?

In general terms, the black hairy tongue is caused by the overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth. This organ has numerous small bumps on its surface which are called papillae. Sometimes dead skin cells build up on them. When this happens, they become longer than usual and more easily trap bacteria, fungi, food, and tobacco.

This accumulation of waste makes the papillae stain. It is then that they acquire the characteristic appearance of the black hairy tongue, that is, a dark tone and the optical impression that it is hairy.

This entire process can occur for various reasons, among which we find the following:

  • Inadequate oral hygiene.
  • Ingestion of antibiotics, which changes the composition of bacteria and yeast in the mouth.
  • Xerostomia or dry mouth.
  • Regular use of mouthwashes that contain irritating or oxidizing agents.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol, coffee or black tea.
  • Smoking
  • Soft diet that makes it difficult to exfoliate dead cells on the tongue.

Tobacco can enlarge the papillae, which would lead to a greater entrapment of nicotine in them and the consequent discoloration.

Keep reading: Harms of tobacco in the oral cavity

What are the symptoms of a black hairy tongue?

The distinctive sign of the black hairy tongue is the change in the appearance of that organ. It acquires a dark color that can be black, but also brown, green, yellow, white or tan.

Likewise, at first glance it seems as if the tongue is covered with hairs or hairs. Affected people often experience a metallic taste in the mouth and changes in taste. There is also bad breath and, if the problem is very severe, there is tingling.

Black hairy tongue is not a serious health problem, despite the dramatic appearance the condition takes. However, if it raises any concerns or doubts, it is best to consult your doctor.

Likewise, it is worth seeing a doctor if the disorder persists for a long timedespite strict hygiene measures being adopted. In those cases, it is best to rule out that there is another problem.

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Treatment of black hairy tongue

The black hairy tongue does not require any medical treatment. Appropriate measures have to do with hygiene care or elimination of the factors that cause the problem, such as irritating mouthwashes and tobacco use.

But nevertheless, If there is no clarity about what is happening or additional symptoms appear, it is best to go to the doctor to confirm the diagnosis. It is important to note that there are other factors that generate similar symptoms, such as the following:

  • Some foods or medicines stain the tongue.
  • It can be a manifestation of viral or fungal disease.
  • Injuries cause the appearance of the tongue to change. In particular hairy leukoplakia.
  • Products containing bismuth may alter the appearance, making it similar to black hairy tongue.

Home tips to treat and prevent the development of this disease

Oral hygiene is key to stopping the appearance of the black hairy tongue.

It is best to first identify the factor that causes the black hairy tongue. If antibiotics have been taken, the logical thing is to think that the problem will disappear a few days after finishing taking them.

It is important to check the composition of the mouthwash that is used. In principle you can choose another with a different formula. In any case, the important thing is to be more rigorous with oral hygiene:

  • Brush the tongue: the taste of toothpaste can give the false impression that the tongue is clean, but it is not. It is best to brush it without being too energetic, using a soft bristle brush or a tongue scraper.
  • Brush your teeth after eating: Ideally, use a fluoride toothpaste and brush after every meal or at least twice a day.
  • Using dental floss: It should be used at least once a day, as it helps remove plaque and food debris that remain between the teeth.
  • To visit the dentist: it must be done at least twice a year or in the event of an abnormal situation.

Intensify hygiene

If the presence of black hairy tongue is detected, it is best to intensify oral hygiene routines. Brushing the tongue should be done twice a day. Once the problem disappears, do it at least once a day.

It may be a good idea to use a dental rinse made up of hydrogen peroxide and water. The dilution is done with one part peroxide to five parts water. This compound is used twice a day and is rinsed off again with regular water.