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Black Hairy Tongue: Should We Worry?

Cleaning Corona
Cleaning Corona

Tiny bumps on the surface of the tongue, small black hair... This sounds awful, but the black hairy tongue is a harmless and fairly common condition that can typically be controlled with proper mouth care.

What is Black Hairy Tongue?

Black Hairy Tongue is a harmless condition in which the top of the tongue looks hairy. But take note that the substance on the tongue is not actual hair and it is not always black. It can be other colors such as white, brown, and green.

Did you know that about 13 percent of people at some point in their lives are affected by a black hairy tongue, according to the American Academy of Oral Medicine. Now you might be wondering, what causes black hairy tongue?

What Causes Black Hairy Tongue?

Poor oral hygiene and a diet of soft foods can cause a black hairy tongue, as the shedding process is supported by stimulation and abrasion to the top of the tongue. It can also be caused by drinking too much coffee, tea, alcohol, and excessive taking of tobacco, which most people practice, especially now that most of us are still staying at home due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Some people use cigarettes as a way to lessen their stress due to the Covid 19 crisis. When there is poor hygiene, bacteria or yeast grow in the mouth, which causes a black hairy tongue. The bacteria build up on papillae (small, rounded projections that line the surface of the tongue). Bacteria can cause papillae to grow up to 15x in length, letting them absorb colors from foods and beverages, as well as from yeast and bacteria in the mouth.

Certain medications, radiation treatment, dryness in the mouth, and some kinds of mouthwash that contain peroxide, witch hazel, or menthol can also cause a black hairy tongue.

What are the symptoms of a black hairy tongue?

The tongue's appearance is usually the only symptom. There is also no pain and discomfort. But in some cases, symptoms include burning, tickling or gagging sensation, bad breath, and loss of taste.

What are other conditions associated with a black hairy tongue?

Even though having a black hairy tongue is harmless and painless, there are instances when the condition becomes a little complicated. Additional complications may occur such as:

  • Bad Breath

Usually, this is due to the presence of bacteria on the filiform of papillae, which can produce foul-smelling compounds that cause a bad smell.

  • Odd taste of food

The extra-long filiform papillae can cover up the taste buds, resulting in an odd taste in food, or even loss of taste.

  • Burning sensation of the tongue

Bacteria and yeast can turn organic material into acidic substances that are responsible for the burning.

  • Gagging sensation

Consistent nausea is caused by the tickling in the back of the mouth due to the extra-long papillae.

How to Treat Black Hairy Tongue?

A black hairy tongue usually does not need medical treatment. Practice oral hygiene and avoiding factors that may cause the condition like the use of tobacco,  and irritating mouthwash can help treat black hairy tongue.

Here are some home remedies you can try to remove the tongue discoloration. Staying at home during this time of a pandemic gives us more time to take care of our overall health.

  • Brush your tongue gently.

Brushing your tongue gently help to remove dead cells, bacteria, and food debris with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

  • Floss at least once a day.

Flossing at least once a day can help remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth.

  • Brush after eating

We know that brushing our teeth at least two times a day is good for our oral health. Cleaning our teeth after every meal can also decrease the chance of having bacteria and yeast growth on our tongue,

  • Have a regular check-up from your dentist.

Professional teeth cleanings and oral exams are essential to prevent problems in your oral health.

  • Good nutrition is a must.

Drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet not only saves you from having a black hairy tongue, maintaining good nutrition is valuable in your overall health as well.

The practice of maintaining good oral hygiene is essential in treating and preventing not only a black hairy tongue, but it can be helpful in avoiding other diseases and viruses as well, given the current situation that many of us across the world find ourselves in.