Doctors and dentist alike consider oral health as the window to the body. Oral care protects all areas of your mouth, like your tongue. The human tongue has millions of muscular tissues and working elements that help you determine flavor. On your tongue there are more than 10 thousand taste buds. That is a lot if you think how big your tongue is. Taste buds are there to identify only four different flavors: sweet, sour, bitter and acid. Taste buds help you separate sweet from sour, plus it allows you to distinguish a healthy tongue from an unhealthy one. Tongue-related problems can wreak havoc on oral health. The tongue has many functions and is probably one of the most sensitive organs in our body. Without a tongue you would have a hard time tasting your food, moving your food in your mouth, talking and swallowing. Many health problems today are often initiated by unresolved oral symptoms from a typical dental illness. This is why health care specialists always recommend maintaining proper oral care hygiene. Apart from safeguarding your dental health, preventive oral care works to ensure your entire well-being is free of oral illnesses. Physicians and health specialists regarded oral care as a significant method of improving the quality of life. Throughout history doctors have used the tongue to diagnose many an illness. Tongues can also have their own diseases and problems, and there are different tongue-related problems reported today such as ‘black hairy tongue’.
About Black Hairy Tongue (Signs And Symptoms)
Black hairy tongue is a temporary, often 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. The hair-like projection may be the result of a yeast infection and an excessive level of bacteria. Everyone’s tongue has little hair like projections called filiform, when they are healthy you would not even realize they were there. However, sometimes they get longer and more abundant making your tongue appear to be hairy. The conditions that can cause this unusual growth are extreme thirst, an overgrowth of bacteria and taking antibiotics. People that smoke a lot are mouth breeders or denture wearers are more prone to this. The normal pink tongue takes on a black/dark coating. It is not necessarily the case that it appears only in a black color, it may appear as a brown, pink, white or greenish color. It depends on the specific reason for this appearance and also other factors such as the use of mints, color mouthwashes, candies etc. Often no matter what color it takes this is simply a buildup of debris and dead cells. Sometimes you stick your tongue out and it looks dark and brown or black. This may give you great cause for concern but most likely it is due to foods you are eating or in some cases what you are not eating, what medicines you are taking or simply your lifestyle. The little filiform can stain the things that sit on them be that; medications, lozenges, food, drinks and antibiotics. This disorder occurs in 8.3% of children and 57% of young adults living in the United States. The frequency of this occurring is often higher in males. People who use tobacco, drink coffee or tea heavily, are susceptible to contracting black hairy tongue. Black hairy tongue is often a harmless condition with the diagnosis of black hairy tongue being based on appearance and possible causes or contributing factors. Symptoms include discoloration of the tongue, a furry or hairy appearance of the tongue, bad breath, and a metallic taste in the mouth.
Signs and symptoms of black hairy tongue include:
- Tongue discoloration – tongue appears black, yellow or brown in color. Black discoloration of the tongue, although the color may be brown, tan, green, yellow or white
- Bad breath/ halitosis
- Tongue appearance – furry or hairy (A hairy or furry appearance of the tongue)
- Choking sensation in certain persons
- Taste – mouth has an altered or metallic (Altered taste or metallic taste in your mouth)
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Gagging or tickling sensation, if the overgrowth of the papillae is excessive
- When to see a doctor
- Though unattractive, black hairy tongue is usually a temporary, harmless condition.
Causes of Black Hairy Tongue
The surface of your tongue contains a large number of small, finger-like projections called papillae and your taste buds are located among these bumps. The growth of papillae occurs continuously and at the same time they wear out on the top layers of your tongue. In certain people the wearing out of the cells does not occur thereby displaying elongated papillae. The elongated papillae trap normal debris, bacteria and other organisms and as the bacteria multiply it produces a dark black, yellow or brown area on your tongue. The elongated papillae with black color look hairy or furry. Black hairy tongue typically results when projections on the tongue called papillae grow longer because they don’t shed dead skin cells like normal. This makes the tongue look hairy. Debris, bacteria or other organisms can collect on the papillae and result in discoloration. This condition is neither an infection nor a cancer and this can be compared to a moss growing on a rock. This condition normally does not occur in people who are healthy and engage in routine normal oral care habits with Bitvae products. Black hairy tongue often occurs because of the hypertrophy of filiform papillae on the upper surface of the tongue; the reason for this is the lack of mechanical stimulation as well as debridement. People with poor oral hygiene – insufficient tooth brushing, diets with soft foods without any roughage are likely to be affected by this. If the food contains more roughage it could mechanically abrade the upper surface of the tongue. In some cases, black hairy tongue is caused by a buildup of dead skin cells on the tiny projections that contain taste buds (papillae). Potential causes include antibiotic use and tobacco use. Another cause of black hairy tongue is because of medication intake, like antibiotics.
The reason for developing black hairy tongue cannot be easily determined. However, the following are the causes that trigger development of this condition:
- Breathing through your mouth
- Changes in the normal bacteria or yeast content of the mouth after antibiotic use. Taking certain antibiotics that changes the bacteria balance in your mouth
- Diabetics with uncontrolled glucose level
- Poor oral hygiene
- Dry mouth (xerostomia)
- Heavy smoking / tobacco use
- Regular use of mouthwashes containing irritating oxidizing agents, such as peroxide
- Drinking excessive amounts of coffee or black tea
- Persons getting chemotherapy or radiation therapy treatment for neck and head cancer
- Tobacco use
- Excessive alcohol use
- Eating a soft diet that doesn’t help to rub dead skin cells from your tongue
See your doctor if:
- You’re concerned about the appearance of your tongue
- Black hairy tongue persists despite brushing your teeth and tongue twice daily. (Note: since this condition causes no harm and temporary you need not seek medical help unless you are perturbed by the visual appearance or this condition persists for a longer period.)
Treating Black Hairy Tongue
Black hairy tongue typically doesn’t require medical treatment. Though unattractive, it’s a temporary, harmless condition. Practicing good oral hygiene with Bitvae products and eliminating factors that may contribute to the condition — such as avoiding tobacco use or irritating mouthwashes — help resolve black hairy tongue. Be sure to talk to your doctor or dentist before stopping a prescribed medication. Black hairy tongue could result in an occasional candida overgrowth and this could lead to an uncomfortable burning tongue. On rare occasions the taste sensation is altered. Treating black hairy tongue depends on the condition.
In most of the cases the elongated filiform papillae can be removed by properly brushing the tongue with a toothbrush or scraping the tongue with a tongue scraper. This will also reduce the growth of the additional papillae. people who live on a soft diet continuously might develop black hairy tongue because the soft diet does not debride the upper surface of the tongue while eating or swallowing. In such cases the patient should include in the diet more roughage; otherwise brushing or scraping of the tongue may be the best solution. In extreme cases surgical removal of the papillae may be required. This is performed using a carbon dioxide laser, electro-desiccation and sometimes scissors. As noted black hairy tongue is a temporary phenomenon and normally does not warrant any medical treatment. It is harmless but unattractive. If you practice good oral hygiene and avoid factors such as smoking/ tobacco usage, etc. This will prevent the occurrence of black hairy tongue. It’s best to consult with a physician before changing any medication that may be causing black hairy tongue. The occurrence of black hairy tongue can be prevented by following good oral health practices such as brushing, flossing, tongue brushing, tongue scraping and professional cleaning.
To practice good oral health and get rid of black hairy tongue discoloration:
- Brush your tongue. Give your tongue a gentle brushing whenever you brush your teeth to remove dead cells, bacteria and food debris. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or a flexible tongue scraper.
- Brush after eating. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and ideally after every meal, using fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss at least once a day. Proper flossing removes food particles and plaque from between your teeth.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Get professional teeth cleanings and regular oral exams, which can help your dentist prevent problems or spot them early. Your dentist can recommend a schedule for you.
- Maintain good nutrition. Drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet that contains fresh fruits and vegetables.
Tongue problems can be embarrassing for we use our tongues for many activities: eating, speaking, kissing, and what is on our tongue may affect the smell of the breath. So it is important to know about your tongue and how to keep it healthy. Black hairy tongue may result in embarrassment, and halitosis. Apart from impacting your self-confidence, this impairs your social life and negatively impacts oral health and maybe a precursor to more serious medical issues. Fortunately, there are various therapies used to combat black hairy tongue. With the help of dental care, like daily brushing and dental flossing with Bitvae products, your teeth, tongue and mouth stay safe. 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 and Bitvae can help with that. Brushing and cleaning the tongue meticulously helps scrape microorganisms off and avoid outbreaks. It is important to remember that if you have any concern in the taste, texture or look of your tongue you should take action. Good dental care fights bacteria and infections that induce black hairy tongue. Although black hairy tongue is a temporary issue, you should practice sound dental care routines with the help of Bitvae products.