Black, hairy tongue typically results when projections on the tongue called papillae grow longer (elongate) 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 black, yellow or brown discoloration.

The cause of black, hairy tongue can't always be determined. However, potential causes include:

  • Changes in the normal bacteria or yeast content of the mouth following antibiotic use
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Breathing through your mouth
  • 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
  • Heavy tobacco use
Apr. 22, 2011