Overview

Black hairy tongue is a temporary, harmless oral condition that gives the tongue a dark, furry appearance. The distinct look usually results from a buildup of dead skin cells on the many tiny projections (papillae) on the surface of the tongue that contain taste buds. These papillae, which are longer than normal, can easily trap and be stained by bacteria, yeast, tobacco, food or other substances.

Although black hairy tongue may look alarming, typically it doesn't cause any health problems, and it's usually painless. Black hairy tongue usually resolves by eliminating possible causes or contributing factors and practicing good oral hygiene.

June 10, 2017
References
  1. Hairy tongue. American Academy of Oral Medicine. http://www.aaom.com/hairy-tongue. Accessed Feb. 25, 2017.
  2. Gurvits GE, et al. Black hairy tongue syndrome. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 2014;20:10845.
  3. Tongue, hairy. National Organization for Rare Disorders. https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/tongue-hairy/. Accessed Feb. 25, 2017.
  4. Goldstein BG, et al. Oral lesions. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  5. Mangold AR, et al. Diseases of the tongue. Clinics in Dermatology. 2016;34:458.
  6. Brushing your teeth. American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth. Accessed Feb. 27, 2017.
  7. Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 16, 2017.