Black Tongue – Causes and Treatment

You would be scared to death if you suddenly discover that your tongue has turned black. Despite its scary appearance, black tongue or black hairy tongue is a harmless condition. Overgrowth of oral bacteria is responsible for this condition. This is a temporary condition that subsides naturally even without any medical intervention.

Symptoms of black tongue

In black tongue, the tongue appears black and hairy. Change of taste might occur. People with black tongue usually experience a metallic taste in the mouth. Foul breath is another symptom of this oral disorder. It is advisable to see the doctor if the symptoms of black tongue remains for over ten days.

Causes of black tongue

Bacterial or yeast overgrowth on the tongue gives your tongue a black and furry appearance. The normal pinkish white color of the tongue is due to the presence of papillae on the surface of the tongue. In normal conditions, the papillae grow, and they shed after reaching a certain length.

If for some reason instead of shedding, the papillae continue to grow further, the elongated papillae will produce hair like projections on the tongue. Bacteria, yeast or food debris would accumulate in the elongated papillae, giving the tongue the black color. Bacterial or yeast overgrowth is largely blamed for this abnormal growth of the papillae.

Poor oral hygiene is usually thought to be responsible for this condition. Black tongue can develop from drinking excess tea, coffee or caffeinated drinks. Smoking or chewing tobacco might be responsible for tongue discoloration. Dehydration can reduce saliva production, and your tongue might appear black in color.

Antibiotic medications could disturb the normal bacterial balance in the mouth, triggering bacterial build up on the papillae. Regular use of peroxide, menthol or witch hazel based mouthwashes could be associated with this condition. People breathing through the mouth have a risk of developing black tongue. Black tongue could be the side effect of certain medications and head or neck radiation therapy.

Black tongue treatment

Black tongue cures naturally within a few days. However, to avoid this condition, you should practice proper oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth after meals and regular flossing could reduce the risk of this condition. To remove the bacteria and debris collecting on the tongue, brush your tongue with a flexible tongue cleaner.


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