Black Hairy Tongue: Is Your Tongue Black and Furry? Here's What You Can Do


If your tongue appears furry and black - don’t be alarmed. This is a harmless condition known as black hairy tongue. Usually, this condition occurs when projections on the tongue known as papillae grow longer because they aren’t able to shed dead skin cells normally- this makes the tongue appear hairy. Typically, this hairy tongue is accompanied by discolouration because debris, bacteria, and other microscopic organisms can build-up on the papillae and result in the black appearance.

Symptoms of black hairy tongue

Black hairy tongue can happen to anyone. Here are the most obvious signs you need to look out for -

  • Black discolouration of the tongue; in some cases it could be brown, green, tan, yellow, or white as well

  • Furry or hairy appearance of the tongue

  • Unpleasant, metallic taste in the mouth

  • Ticklish or even gagging sensation if the growth is too excessive

If the black hairy tongue persists even though you brush twice a day, then you need to visit the doctor. Otherwise, typically it is a harmless, temporary condition.

Causes of black hairy tongue

Although the causes of black tongue are not always clear, but possible factors include:

  • Poor oral hygiene

  • Dry mouth

  • Antibiotic usage and changes in normal yeast or bacteria content in the mouth

  • Regularly using mouthwashes that contain oxidizing agents such as peroxide which cause irritation

  • Usage of tobacco

  • Excessive alcohol

  • Excessive black tea or coffee

  • Eating a diet that is soft and does not rub away the dead skin cells from the tongue

Now that you know the possible black hairy tongue causes, let us talk about how it can be treated.

Black tongue treatment

The good news is, typically, black hairy tongue does not really need medical intervention. It may appear alarming, but it is temporary and harmless - usually, it can go away by practicing good oral care and taking certain precautions. Here are some things you can do to stave off the black hairy appearance of the tongue -

  • Brush daily: Brushing just once is not enough like many people assume. Brushing twice a day is ideal, once in the morning and another time at night right before bed. It can also be helpful to brush gently once mid-day sometime after lunch. Brush thoroughly with a soft toothbrush for two minutes each time to ensure that the teeth are cleaned effectively. Ideally, it is good to use a fluoride toothpaste.

  • Clean the tongue: If your tongue turned black, do not forget to gently clean the tongue after you are done brushing. Don’t worry, it is not going to hurt - just use a tongue scraper or the back of your toothbrush to softly scrape off and remove dead skin cells and accumulated debris.

  • Floss adequately: Floss properly at least once a day- ideally, at night before bed to remove the day’s leftover food particles and plaque from between the teeth.

  • Visit the dentist: Make this a regular thing - get professional teeth cleanings and visit the dentist at least once every six months. It will help to diagnose oral issues early on and help in charting out the appropriate treatment plan.

Black hairy tongue is harmless, and with proper oral care one can prevent it. Make sure you practice good dental hygiene and visit the dentist regularly. It is also important to use proper dental products such as Oral-B electric toothbrush for optimal teeth brushing and cleaning.

Read and know more about bad breath causes, symptoms and treatments at Oral-B India.