When you wake up and look in the mirror, it can be shocking to see that the top of your tongue is black instead of pink. You may wonder, “Why is my tongue black?” Stay calm. The good news is that most cases of black tongue are harmless and will go away on their own.
Why Is My Tongue Black?
Papillae, the little bumps on the surface of our tongues that help us taste, make up our tongues. Usually, the cells on the top of our tongues fall off and are replaced by new, fresh cells.
Sometimes, the cells don’t shed as they should. When cells pile up, a protein called keratin gets stuck on the surface. Because of this buildup, the papillae get bigger and look like long, hairy growths. The tongue turns black because food particles, bacteria, and yeast get stuck in the growths. Because of this, the condition is called “black hairy tongue.”
Signs of a Hairy Black Tongue
The top of your tongue will look black, which is the most obvious sign that you have this condition. But your tongue may also look green, brown, beige, or yellow, depending on what kind of bacteria are stuck in the enlarged papillae.
You may also have bad breath, a metallic taste in your mouth, and irritation or gagging from papillae in the back of your throat that have grown too much. Your tongue may look fuzzy or hairy on top.
Why Does Someone Have A Black Tongue?
When you take too many antibiotics, the balance of bacteria in your mouth can be upset, which can lead to a black tongue. Bismuth subsalicylate and oral sprayed steroids are two other medicines that can cause the condition. Even mouthwashes that contain peroxide can make your tongue turn black.
Poor oral hygiene, like not brushing twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and scraping the tongue gently after each meal, can also be to blame. If you have xerostomia or dry mouth, more bacteria may grow on your tongue because less saliva flows through your mouth. The black tongue can also be caused by what you eat. If you don’t eat much fiber, the cells on your tongue might shed less, which could make bacteria grow.
Some health problems make you more likely to get a black tongue. If you have diabetes, HIV, or another illness that weakens your immune system, or if you are getting radiation therapy, you could be at risk. Trigeminal neuralgia hurts the nerves in the face and can also be a risk factor.
How to Treat Black Tongue
You can get rid of your black tongue faster by doing a few things. You can get rid of dead skin cells on the top of your tongue by eating a lot of fiber. If the problem is caused by the medicine you’re taking, talk to your doctor about what other options you might have.
A dentist can get rid of hairy growths by using a dental laser. They may also give you a topical retinoid to get rid of the dead cells on the surface of your tongue.
How to Avoid Getting a Black Tongue
You can lower your risk of the black tongue by brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes and by gently removing dead skin cells from your tongue after each meal with a tongue scraper or soft toothbrush. You can also put a little baking soda on a toothbrush and scrape your tongue with that. You can also use fluoride toothpaste and floss before bed to help.
Adding more moisture to your mouth is also good. Drink a lot of water and chew xylitol gum to make your saliva flow more. Rinsing your mouth with salt water three times a day can help prevent dry mouth and black tongue. By mixing a teaspoon of salt into a cup of water, you can make your own salty water.
Dr. Motiwala in International Press
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