While some dental issues aren’t immediately apparent, others are and can raise alarm with their appearance. Black hairy tongue is a perfect example of a dental condition that can actually appear much more alarming than it really is.
What is Black Hairy Tongue?
As its name implies, black hairy tongue manifests itself in the appearance of the tongue being black and hairy-looking. The oral condition could consist of brown, green, tan, yellow or white discoloration instead of black, and the amount of furry appearance the tongue has can vary as well. It’s usually accompanied by other conditions such as bad breath, an altered or metallic taste in the mouth and a gagging or tickling sensation.
What Causes Black Hairy Tongue?
Black hairy tongue usually results from a buildup of dead skin cells on the tongue. The surface of the tongue contains numerous tiny projections called papillae, and when the papillae are longer than usual, they can catch dead skin cells, food, bacteria, yeast and other substances and can be stained by tobacco. Although it’s difficult to discern the reason why some individuals’ papillae grows longer and doesn’t shed like normal, some of the most common causes that black hairy tongue is attributed to include bad oral hygiene, changes in the normal bacteria or yeast in the mouth after using antibiotics, dry mouth, certain types of medications that contain bismuth, tobacco use and even eating a soft diet that doesn’t help rub dead skin cells from the tongue.
Treatment for Black Hairy Tongue
Although black hairy tongue might appear like a serious condition, it’s actually one that poses no medical heath effects and typically doesn’t require any type of specialized treatment. Practicing good oral hygiene and eliminating any factors that could be contributing to the condition can help resolve the issue sooner. Most dentists recommend brushing the tongue when brushing teeth to remove the dead cells, bacteria and food debris from it that can become discolored and cause black hairy tongue.
When to Seek Professional Treatment
If black hairy tongue doesn’t seem to clear up after a few days or persistently keeps coming back, individuals might need to seek the advice of a professional. Dentists can help patients better identify just what’s causing their black hairy tongue by evaluating their answers to questions concerning any illnesses they’ve had, any changes in their diet and other such factors that the individuals might not have thought of on their own when trying to diagnose the cause of their black hairy tongue. Sometimes dentists can recommend an effective brushing schedule to get rid of the condition faster.
Grigoriy E Gurvits and Amy Tan.”Black hairy tongue syndrome.” Retrieved on October 15, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4138463/.
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