What Brings on a Black Tongue and What Can Be Done About It

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Certain drugs and beverages can cause a black tongue. Dead skin cells building up on the tongue is another possible cause.

As unsettling as it is, a black tongue is usually not indicative of anything serious. You may also have noticed that your tongue has a hairy appearance. That, however, is not a collection of hairs. Black hairy tongue is characterized by these symptoms and is a temporary condition.

Keep reading to find out what causes this and how to treat it.

Hundreds of tiny bumps, known as papillae, cover the surface of your tongue. In most cases, you won't even notice them. However, when dead skin accumulates at their tips, they take on an eerily elongated appearance.

A black, furry appearance results from the tongue's long papillae being stained by bacteria and other substances.

Although black hairy tongue is usually only visually noticeable, in some cases it can also cause burning, gagging, and tingling sensations in the mouth and throat. In addition, you may notice that your breath smells funny or that your mouth has a strange flavor.

Sometimes the tongue will stop shedding its dead skin cells, and the cause is unknown.

  • Subpar oral hygiene If you don't regularly brush your teeth and tongue and rinse your mouth out, dead skin cells are more likely to build up on your tongue.
  • Reduced salivation Ingesting saliva aids in the digestion of dead skin. Lack of saliva means that these flakes of skin can accumulate on the tongue.
  • Smoothie diet Consuming solids aids in the removal of dead tongue skin. If you stick to a liquid-only diet, you won't experience this.
  • Adverse drug reactions Dry mouth is a common side effect of many medications, and this can facilitate the buildup of skin cells on the papillae.

Your tongue can become discolored by various substances once it no longer sheds dead skin cells. The list of such chemicals includes:

  • Antibiotics Antibiotics eliminate both beneficial and pathogenic bacteria. This can upset the equilibrium of your mouth's microbiome, making it more favorable for the growth of some yeasts and bacteria.
  • Tobacco Black tongue is associated with the use of tobacco in any form. The tongue's elongated papillae are a prime target for nicotine's staining effects.
  • Having a cup of joe or tea A diet heavy in coffee or tea can also leave unsightly stains on the elongated papillae.
  • Several rinses for the mouth Harsh mouthwashes containing oxidizing agents, such as peroxide, can disturb the natural balance of bacteria in your mouth.
  • Pepto-Bismol, a.k.a. bismuth subsalicylate. Several gastrointestinal OTCs contain bismuth subsalicylate as an active ingredient. When combined with the naturally occurring sulfur in the mouth, it can leave a black stain on the tongue.

If your symptoms persist for more than a few days despite rest and over-the-counter remedies, you should see a doctor. Black hairy tongue can be diagnosed by a doctor through a visual examination of the tongue and review of the patient's medical history.

Your tongue may be scraped by your doctor to check for discoloration. If so, you may be suffering from a condition known as "black hairy tongue."

Your doctor will be able to determine if a fungal or bacterial infection is the root cause of your black tongue and help you treat it if necessary.

In most cases, a black tongue can be ignored. After a few days of regular brushing, your tongue should be free of dead skin and stains.

See your doctor if you think your black tongue is due to a liquid diet or medication. Depending on the severity of the yeast or bacteria in your mouth, they may be able to adjust your dosage or recommend an antifungal or antibacterial medication.

To encourage more frequent cell replacement on the tongue, your doctor may also recommend a topical retinoid medication.

Carbon dioxide laser burning or electrodessication, which cuts and seals the papillae at the same time, can be used to remove stubborn elongated papillae.

In most cases, however, you can treat the issue on your own:

  • Be sure to brush your tongue. Brush your tongue twice daily with a soft toothbrush to remove bacteria and dead skin.
  • Make use of a tongue scraper. Tongue scrapers can be used in conjunction with regular tooth-brushing to eliminate buildup of dead skin on the papillae. A similar product is available for purchase on Amazon
  • To clean your teeth after a meal It is important to brush your teeth and tongue after each meal to remove food particles and bacteria that may have become lodged in the papillae.
  • Cleaning your teeth after a drink In order to avoid teeth becoming discolored from beverages like coffee, tea, and alcohol, it is recommended to brush right after consuming these beverages.
  • The use of tobacco products must be ceased. If you want to save your health and your tongue, stop smoking or chewing tobacco. Brush your teeth and tongue after using tobacco, or at least every two hours if you're not ready to quit.
  • Make sure to floss before going to sleep. Maintaining a clean mouth free of plaque and food debris is as simple as flossing once a day.
  • Set up a cleaning time. Going in for regular cleanings at the dentist is an important part of keeping your teeth in good condition.
  • Take in plenty of fluids. Keeping your mouth moist in this way facilitates the ingestion of discarded skin. Don't know how much alcohol is safe for you to consume Find out.
  • Chew gum If you want to increase saliva production and flush away dead skin cells, chewing sugar-free gum or gum made for dry mouth is a good idea. Chewing gum has the added benefit of loosening dead skin cells stuck on your body as you chew.
  • Get your nutrition from a variety of sources. Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains all contribute to a healthy oral microbiome.

A black tongue, while unsightly, is harmless and only temporary. Modifying your way of life should have immediate effects.

Consult a physician if the discoloration persists for more than a week or two. You may need a different dose of your medication or to have the protruding papillae surgically removed.

The most recent checkup was on January 4, 2022.

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