Black tongue is a benign oral condition with temporary formation. The name of this condition may confuse you, but it won’t turn your tongue black. Instead, you may witness hairy growth on your tongue.   

Black tongue occurs when keratin named protein grows on the surface of the tongue. Excessive buildup of bacteria inside the mouth can also cause your tongue to appear blackish. The condition isn’t permanent and usually goes away without treatment.  

Keep reading to learn about the causes of black tongue. You’ll also find home treatments that will help get rid of this condition.  

What causes this condition?

Black hairy tongue and pseudo-black hairy tongue are the two types of black tongue. The cause for both is different. 

Black hairy tongue

The surface of the tongue is covered in keratin protein. Usually, keratin discharges when the skin cells discharge. But sometimes, the body stops eliminating the dead skin, and keratin grows, making the tongue look black and ugly. 

Here are some factors that elevate the chances of keratin accumulation on your tongue. 

  • If you don’t regularly brush your teeth and tongue, there are higher chances that dead skin cells will build upon your tongue. 
  • If your body isn’t producing enough saliva, dead skin cells will linger on your tongue. 
  • Solid food items help scratch away the dead skin cells from the tongue’s surface. But if you only intake liquids, there can be a problem.  
  • Certain medications can cause dry mouth, making it easier for dead skin cells to build up.  
  • Weakened immunity due to health condition
  • Radiotherapy
  • Nerve disorder trigeminal neuralgia that affects the nerves of the face 

Why Is My Tongue Turning Black?

  • Excessive use of antibiotics. Antibiotics kill good and bad body bacteria, disturbing the bacterial balance in your mouth. This helps certain bacteria and yeasts to grow. 
  • Tobacco use. Chewing or smoking tobacco can stain the elongated tongue papillae.
  • Drinking too much black tea or coffee can also discolor elongated papillae.
  • Mouthwashes. Mouthwashes containing peroxide can disturb the balance of bacteria in the mouth.  

Pseudo-black hairy tongue

Some people may have a black furry tongue. The cause of this type is a bacterial or fungal infection. Other oral diseases can also result in a hairy tongue.  

When you have a buildup of dead skin cells on your tongue, bacteria and other substances can get caught in them. This can make your tongue look dark brown or blackish.


Several symptoms are associated with black tongue, all depending on the cause.  

Other than the hairs on the tongue, people with this condition rarely have other symptoms. But those who do may experience the following.  

  • change in tongue color
  • fuzzy tongue
  • a bad taste in the mouth
  • halitosis
  • burning sensation on the tongue

Home remedies

A black tongue doesn’t cause any harm, but it tells about lingering oral issues. 

Practicing mouth cleaning habits can help get rid of black tongue. Here are some steps you can add to your oral hygiene regime.  

  • brush your teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste
  • while brushing use a tongue scrape to get rid of bacteria, plaque and other residues from the tongue. 
  • occasionally rinse and gargle your mouth with warm saltwater. This can help eliminate bad smell and taste from the mouth. 
  • brush your teeth after every meal and use mouth wash for added cleanliness
  • drink lots of water, so your mouth remains clean
  • add more raw vegetables and fruits to your diet. 

Treating hairy tongue

If you have tried all the above home remedies, but your black tongue is still not turning back to normal, it’s time to see a doctor or dentist. 

Here are some treatments that you’re expected to be advised by a medical expert. 

  • Antibiotics: This class of medicines helps in getting rid of bacterial infections lingering on the tongue.  
  • Changing medications: If the black tongue is a result of antibiotic use, your doctor will prescribe you other medications. 
  • Antifungal treatment: If the cause of black tongue is a fungal infection, this treatment will help to eliminate this particular cause 
  • Certain medications and supplements such as retinoids, salicylic acid, and vitamin B may help subside black tongue symptoms. But you should always consult a doctor before using these treatments. 
  • Surgery: If all the above treatments fail to provide you relief, your dentist can carry out surgery to remove the hairy growths on your tongue. This procedure is completely safe and very effective.  

When to consult a doctor

A black tongue can be scary but doesn’t require emergency treatment.  

Before you consult a doctor or dentist, you should wait a few days, try the above home remedies, and see how they work with your condition. But if your symptoms stay the same or get worse, you should immediately get medical help. 

In some patients, black tongue can also bring symptoms of oral health issues like: 

  • cracked tooth
  • gum ache
  • mouth infection
  • tooth abscess 

Immediately visit your family doctor or dentist if your tongue is turning black along with these symptoms.  

  • pain
  • inflammation
  • badly damaged teeth

Contact the dentists at Rodeo Dental & Orthodontics today and get your treatment for your black tongue. 

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