Why is my tongue black? What does it mean when your tongue is black? Get more insights on the causes of green black hairy tongue, symptoms, treatments and how to fix and cure this tongue problem among children and adults.

why is my tongue black

why is my tongue black

Why is My Tongue Black

Tongue is an organ in the body and it is made up of several muscles that defines its function. Structurally the tongue is used in tasting, moving and mixing of food to enable swallowing and is also used in forming of words while talking. Therefore it is regarded as the strongest muscle in the body.

A healthy tongue is pink in color and the surface is covered with small nodules called papillae which contains taste buds. At a time human beings may develop black spots on tongue or patches that are white, black or red in color. This can cause worry, panic, anxiety and discomfort.

Black tongue is common and most people are experience it including young children. According to the studies, majority of these tongue conditions does not associate any serious medical condition. There are rare cases where such signs may imply a serious medical problem especially when they relate other signs like soreness, pain, bleeding and a swollen tongue.

Having a black hairy tongue is a temporal condition that gives it a dark furry appearance. Most cases of black hairy tongue usually results from a buildup of dead skin cells on the numerous tiny projections (papillae) on the surface of tongue that contain taste buds.

These papillae, which are longer than normal, can easily trap and be stained by tobacco, food or other substances, and bacteria or yeast. Although black hairy tongue may look alarming, typically it doesn’t cause any health problems and is usually painless. Black hairy tongue usually resolves without medical treatment.

Black Hairy Tongue Symptoms

Here are the major signs and symptoms of a black hairy tongue:

  • Discoloration of the tongue to black, green tan, yellow, white or brown
  • Hairy growth on the tongue surface causing a furry appearance
  • An altered taste either salty or metallic in the mouth
  • Production of a bad breath by the patient
  • Tickling or irritating sensation of the tongue

What Causes a Black Tongue

what causes black hairy tongue

what causes black hairy tongue

What causes a black hair tongue? Black tongue is mainly caused by excessive growth and multiplication of bacteria in the mouth. They also make the papillae to grow longer and altering the normal shedding rate. The lengthening of the papillae drastically increases hence appearing like abnormal bumps on tongue.

When these natural nodules on the tongue grows abnormally, they begin changing from their normal pink color to white, black or dark due to the catching up of food and drink materials as well as bacteria themselves. The answer to the question “why is my tongue black” lies within the following causes:

  • Poor oral hygiene due to lack of brushing or cleaning mouth.
  • Smoking tobacco in form of cigarettes or cigars;
  • Drinking a lot of beverages such as coffee or tea
  • Using antibiotics (which may disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in the mouth)
  • Being dehydrated (lack of enough water in the body to flash out toxin substances)
  • Consumption of medications that contain the chemical bismuth (such as Pepto-Bismol for upset stomach)
  • Inadequate saliva production in the mouth.
  • Regularly using mouthwash that contains peroxide, witch hazel, or menthol
  • Getting radiation therapy to the head and neck
  • Eating of food substances that does not help to rub dead skin cells from your tongue
  • Chronic medical conditions and infections such as HIV and AIDS
  • Radiation treatment for cancer around head and neck regions.
  • Certain types of medications that contains Bismuth
  • Low intake of fluids and low production of saliva.

How to Get Rid of a Black Tongue – Treatment

black coating on tongue

black coating on tongue

Black hairy tongue is does not imply any serious medical condition and symptoms are expected to subside within a couple of weeks. This is a temporary and harmless medical condition that does not require any special medical attention.

Good oral hygiene is the best way to get rid of the black hair tongue. While you are brushing your teeth, also remember to brush your tongue on regular basis. This not only help in the removal of dead skin on the surface but also helping in shedding of the excessive papillae that may harbor bacteria and other stains. Use a dental floss on your teeth daily to keep the level of bacteria in your mouth at low levels.

Always take enough amount of water on regular basis. Dry mouth can easily cause bacterial infection. After every meal, swish your mouth with plenty of water especially if you are unable to brush. Use of warm sea salt water to swish your mouth is more ideal.

Avoid smoking and using too much substances such as tobacco, tea and coffee. Roughage should be the greatest part of your diet to help in rubbing out dead skin cells from the tongue surface. Textured foods naturally help in cleaning of the tongue.

When to See a Doctor

brown tongue picture

why is my tongue black when i wake up

When symptoms persist for more than a week, you need to consult your doctor, dentist or a GP since the condition can be linked to a serious underlying medical condition. Your mouth will be examined and a relevant treatment will follow.

In such cases, the doctor may prescribe antibacterial medication to get rid of the fungi causing the black tongue. For a more serious situation advanced treatments such as laser or surgery may be used in removing the excessive papillae.

Here are some (FAQ) questions the doctor will as you the moment you report about the tongue problem:

  • When did you first notice the problem?
  • Have you had similar symptoms before?
  • Do you have pain, swelling, breathing problems, or difficulty swallowing? Are there problems with speaking or moving the tongue?
  • Have you noticed changes in taste?
  • Do you have a tongue tremor?
  • What makes the problem worse? What have you tried that helps?
  • Do you wear dentures?
  • What have you tried that helps?
  • Are there problems with the teeth, gums, lips, or throat? Does the tongue bleed?
  • Do you have a rash or fever? Do you have allergies?
  • What medicines do you take?
  • Do you use tobacco products or drink alcohol?

Black tongue can cause taste problems in the mouth and the diagnosis should focus to know the real cause of the condition. Damage to the taste buds, nerve problems and allergies are some of the factors that can alter the tongue tasting ability. This should make you act when you realize you have a black hairy tongue.

Further Reading