Black Hairy Tongue

Mouth | Odontologie | Black Hairy Tongue (Symptom)


Hairy tongue, medically known as lingua villosa, is usually an inoffensive condition that implies a discolored and furry tongue. Hairy tongue refers in most cases to a black hairy tongue (lingua villosa nigra), but the tongue discoloration can also be white, brown, pink, or green. The color of the tongue depends both on the underlying condition plus the presence of any additional factors, such as the type of food consumed.

Black hairy tongue is the lengthening of papilla which are bumps on the surface of the tongue. Usually the ends of the papillae get rubbed away by food but sometimes they grow much longer than normal, making the tongue look furry. The extra tissue can get stained by food or tobacco and become yellowish brown or black.


Certain lifestyle habits and conditions can make people more likely to develop black hairy tongue. They include: poor oral hygiene, smoking tobacco, drinking a lot of coffee or tea, using antibiotics, being dehydrated, taking medications that contain the chemical bismuth, not producing enough saliva, regularly using mouthwash that contains peroxide, which hazel, or menthol, getting radiation therapy to the head and neck. Black hairy tongue is more common for men, people who use intravenous drugs, and those who are HIV-positive.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Even though it may appear alarming, black hairy tongue itself is harmless (although it is thought to be linked to the development of thrush). This condition does not involve any type of bacteria or fungi and generally resolves on its own; the recommended treatment is to brush the tongue with a soft toothbrush twice per day. Black hairy tongue is listed as a possible side effect while taking the antibiotic penicillin, also vitamins.


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