Black hairy tongue
is a relatively common condition in which the the central top portion of the tongue presents with an abnormal coloring and coating. Although the abnormal coating is typically black in color, brown, yellow, and green discoloration have been described. Individuals with black hairy tongue usually do not have symptoms, although occasionally there may be a burning, gagging, or tickling sensation. Halitosis (bad breath) or abnormal taste may additionally be present. Black hairy tongue can occur at any age, but the incidence increases with age. Black hairy tongue occurs due to a lack of stimulation on the top of the tongue resulting in a buildup of a protein known as keratin. This buildup can become quite long, giving it a hair-like appearance. Though black hairy tongue can present at any point, certain factors increase one's risk, such as poor oral hygiene, use of medications (particularly antibiotics), tobacco use, therapeutic radiation, and certain illnesses. Treatment varies depending on complexity; however, many cases can easily be resolved with brushing the tongue with a toothbrush or using a tongue scraper.
Last updated: 5/19/2016