Hairy Black Tongue: Causes, Symptoms And Guidelines

Hairy black tongue is almost always the result of poor oral hygiene. It is not enough to maintain daily cleaning routines; you have to do them properly.
Hairy black tongue: causes, symptoms and guidelines

Black hairy tongue, also called “hairy tongue,” is one of those conditions that seems alarming without being a serious health problem. As the name implies, it is a disease that is characterized by a dark tone on the tongue, which appears to have hairs.

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

What can cause hairy black tongue?

Generally speaking, the black hairy tongue problem is caused by the overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth. This organ has several small bumps on its surface, called papillae . Sometimes dead skin cells accumulate on them. When this happens, these papillae become longer than normal and bacteria, fungi, food and tobacco adhere to them more easily.

This accumulation of residue causes the papillae to become stained. It is then that they acquire the characteristic aspect of the hairy black tongue, that is, a dark tone and the optical impression of the presence of hair.

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

  • Inadequate oral hygiene.
  • Intake of antibiotics, which change the composition of bacteria in the mouth.
  • Dry mouth or dry mouth.
  • Regular use of mouthwashes that contain irritating or oxidizing agents.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol, coffee or black tea.
  • Smoking.
  • Diet based on soft and pasty foods that hinder the exfoliation of dead tongue cells.
person smoking cigarette
Tobacco can enlarge the papillae, which would lead to greater adherence of nicotine and a consequent change in color.

What are the symptoms of hairy black tongue?

The hallmark of the “hairy tongue” is the change in appearance of this organ. It takes on a dark color that can be black, but also brown, green, yellow, white or brown.

Likewise, at first glance, it appears that the tongue is covered in hair. 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, it may cause tingling.

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

Likewise, it is worth going to the doctor if the disorder persists for a long time, even with stricter hygiene measures. In these cases, it is better to rule out the existence of another problem.

Hairy black tongue treatment

Black hairy tongue does not require any medical treatment. The appropriate measures concern the care with hygiene or the elimination of the factors causing the problem, such as rinses with irritating compounds and smoking.

However, if it’s not clear what’s happening or if other symptoms arise, it’s 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 medications stain the tongue.
  • It can be a manifestation of viral or fungal disease.
  • Some lesions cause changes in the appearance of the tongue, such as hairy leukoplakia.
  • Products that contain bismuth can change the appearance, making it look like a hairy black tongue.

Home tips to treat and prevent the development of this disease

woman brushing her teeth
Oral hygiene is the key to preventing the appearance of hairy black tongue.

First, it is important to identify the factor that causes the “hairy tongue”. If the problem occurred due to the ingestion of antibiotics, it is logical to think that the problem will disappear a few days after stopping them.

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

  • Brush your tongue : the taste of toothpaste can give the false impression that the tongue is clean, but it isn’t. It’s best to brush it without too much energy, using a soft-bristled brush or a tongue scraper.
  • Brush your teeth after meals : the ideal is to use fluoride toothpaste and brush after meals, or at least twice a day.
  • Floss : it should be used at least once a day as it helps to remove plaque and food debris between the teeth.
  • Visit the dentist : at least twice a year or if you notice anything unusual.

Intensify hygiene

If you detect black tongue and the appearance of hair, it is best to intensify your oral care routines. Tongue brushing should be done twice a day. Once the problem goes away, do it at least once a day.

On the other hand, a good solution is to use a mouthwash made from hydrogen peroxide and water. Dilution is done with one part peroxide to five parts water. Use this compound twice a day and then rinse again with regular water.

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