The name may sound scary, gruesome, and gross…. but the condition known as black hairy tongue is pretty harmless and temporary.
Also see: A Look Inside Your Mouth
It's caused when there's an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth. Certain types of bacteria will accumulate on the papillae (the small projections that cover the tongue) and create red blood cell pigments, which make the tongue look black. And if the outer layer of the cells on the tongue can not shed properly, the papillae grow larger and the tongue can appear “hairy.”
Again, these are illusions. Your tongue is not really black and hairy.
While we do know black hairy tongue is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, no one knows for sure what causes the overgrowth to begin with. Some research suggests that it can be caused by antibiotics, or by using products that contain bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol.
Other possible causes of a black hairy tongue include:
- smoking or using other tobacco products
- drinking excessive amounts of coffee or tea
- failing to follow a regular routine of daily oral hygiene.
Also see: The Basics of Good Oral Hygiene
Bad breath is not associated with black tongue.
If you suspect you have the condition, here are some simple steps you can take to remedy the situation:
- Brush. Gently brush your tongue with a toothbrush twice a day as part of your daily dental care routine.
- Double Rinse. Use a dilute solution of one part hydrogen peroxide to five parts water to rinse your mouth, then rinse again with plain water.
If the discoloration persists, contact our office immediately.