Black hairy tongue typically results when projections on the tongue called papillae grow longer and don't shed like normal. This makes the tongue look hairy. Debris, bacteria or other organisms can collect on the papillae and result in discoloration.
The cause of black hairy tongue can't always be determined. However, potential causes include:
May 16, 2014
- Changes in the normal bacteria or yeast content of the mouth following antibiotic use
- Poor oral hygiene
- Dry mouth (xerostomia)
- Medications containing bismuth, such as Pepto-Bismol
- Regular use of mouthwashes containing oxidizing agents, such as peroxide, or astringent agents, such as witch hazel or menthol
- Tobacco use
- Irritation due to drinking hot beverages, such as coffee or tea
- Eating a soft diet that does not help to rub dead skin cells from your tongue
- Hairy/coated tongue. American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. http://www.aaomp.org/public/hairy-tongue.php. Accessed Feb. 19, 2014.
- Reamy BV, et al. Common tongue conditions in primary care. American Family Physician. 2010;81:627.
- Yan P, et al. Can you identify this condition? Canadian Family Physician. 2010;56:440.
- Goldstein BG, et al. Oral lesions. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 19, 2014.
- Shimizu T, et al. Hairy tongue. BMJ Case Reports. 2012;2012:1.
- Brushing your teeth. MouthHealthy. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth. Accessed Feb. 19, 2014.
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 14, 2014.
- Salinas TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 17, 2014.