Black and White Hairy Tongue Meaning, Causes, Symptoms, in Adults, Treatments and Remedies

What is the meaning of a hairy tongue? What causes hairy tongue? Is a hairy tongue a condition to be worried about? Discover more on the meaning and causes of black and white hairy tongue and symptoms. You will also get insightful information about the right and proper treatments for hairy tongues.

White hairy tongue

White hairy tongue

What is the meaning of a hairy tongue?

When you hear the term hairy tongue (lingua villosa), you may get scared but this is just a harmless, temporary and abnormal condition due to defective shedding of surface cells of the tongue. Actually, this tongue condition occurs due to lack of stimulation to the top of the tongue hence resulting to a buildup of protein keratin.

In serious cases, the length of filiform papillae (conical shaped projections covering the tongue) may get quite long resulting to hair-like appearance on the top of the tongue. Again, when these papillae don’t shed properly, there may be accumulation of bacteria, food and yeast in the hair-like mesh hence giving the tongue various colors.

Therefore, a hairy tongue may appear black, white, brown, green or pink. All these colors will depend on the specific causes, mouthwashes and even candies you consume.

Who is at risk of getting hairy tongue?

hairy brownish tongue

hairy brownish tongue

Anyone can develop hairy tongue but this condition is very rare in infants and very common in adults over 40 years. Therefore, it is now clear the developing hairy tongue increases with age.

Again, hairy tongue have been reported by medical professional to be more often in males. However, it is at the same time not uncommon in females. We also want to make it clear that, the risk of suffering hairy tongue will depend on the exposure to the triggering factors i.e. one may be at a higher risk of developing hairy tongue if he/she is smoking or drinking tea or coffee. Lastly, you have to bear in mind that hairy tongue has no racial predilection.

Signs and symptoms of hairy tongue

Hairy tongue is a condition that often affect two thirds of the front tongue surface but not underneath the tongue. This may make the tongue to appear yellow, green, orange, brown or black with rough coated layer or what is known as “hairy” look. Below are other symptoms that may occur alongside hairy tongue:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Development of altered taste or metallic taste in the mouth
  • Developments of tickling sensation especially when there is excessive overgrowth of the papillae
  • Nausea
  • One may also be worried about the appearance of his/her tongue

Diagnosis for hairy Tongue

To diagnose hairy tongue, your dentist or medical practitioners may use physical clinical examination of the affected tongue. In this case, biopsy of the hairy tongue may not be very important.

Black hairy tongue – lingua villosa nigra

Black hairy tongue

Black hairy tongue

Black hairy tongue or otherwise referred to as lingua villosa nigra is generally neither painful nor harmful condition of the tongue characterized by the occurrence of black furry discoloration that gives the tongue hairy occurrence.

This condition is normally initiated with two problems, which are blackish or brownish discoloration of the papillae and the lengthening of papillae (known as the taste buds). The black hairy appearance of the tongue may be worrisome and bothersome especially when accompanied by bad breath and gaggling sensation.

Black hairy tongue causes

Black hairy tongue is due to accumulation of bacteria, food debris as well as other microorganisms on the papillae. The hairy appearance therefore result from the elongation of papillae when it is unable to shed off. This condition has no specified causes but here are some potential factors that can be blamed for the occurrence of black hairy tongue:

  • Scanty and poor oral hygiene is the major cause for furry tongue in many cases.
  • Heavy consumption of coffee alongside heavy tobacco or cigarette smoking
  • Reaction to certain medication i.e. those containing bismuth or antimicrobial medications e.g. tetracycline. Medications such antibiotics can result to imbalance of the bacteria in the mouth leading to black hairy tongue.
  • Regular use of mouthwash that contain oxidizing and astringent agents such as methanol, witch hazel and peroxide
  • Decreased production of saliva or lowered saliva flow rate
  • Black hairy tongue is also prevalent in persons without teeth since they feed on soft diet which has no abrasive action on the top of the tongue (A soft food diet cannot rub off dead tissues)
  • One is also likely to suffer black hairy tongue when he/she has a weakened immune system may be due to HIV/AIDs or diabetes
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)

Treatments for black hairy tongue

Usually black hairy tongue will go away of its own but one can speed the process by eliminating some of the factors that might trigger black hairy tongue. During the treatment, the aim is to restore back the normal tongue color or appearance of the affected tongue. Here are the best treatments for black hairy tongue:

Regular brushing of the teeth, cavity and tongue

Regular brushing of teeth, gum and tongue using soft bristle usually aid the getting rid of accumulated bacteria or food debris on the tongue hence preventing one from developing black hairy tongue disease.

Hydrating oral cavity

One can also hydrate his or her oral cavity through drinking plenty water to prevent his/her oral cavity from drying up. Remember that, when the oral cavity is dry, the possibility of bacteria as well as other microorganism flourishing in the oral cavity and accumulating in the papillae is very high. Therefore, hydration of oral cavity is very essential.

Changing your lifestyle

Changing lifestyle is another important step in treating black hairy tongue i.e. one may decide quit drinking of alcohol, smoking cigarette as well as excessive drinking of coffee. This may really help to stop this misfortune.

Application of podophyllin

This keratolytic agent can aid the getting rid of the keratin present on the surface of the tongue. It is also worth to note that proper attention must be observed during the use of podophyllin.

White hairy tongue

This another oral problem which is painless and harmless but can lead to discomfort as well as bad breath. What seem to be “white hairy” appearance on the tongue is a film of bacterial growth on the papillae.

This condition usually develop due to oral thrush or candida albicans. Though normal tongue always seem to have little furry presentation of white hairy appearance, the thick furry white appearance may be of a lot of concern to the bearer.

What causes a white hairy tongue?

It should be noted that oral thrush is the major cause of white hairy tongue disease. Normally, bacteria can produce sulphur compound resulting oral malodor and white tongue. Other potential causes of hairy tongue include:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Body reaction to certain medication
  • Prevalent diseases such as diabetes and HIV/AIDs
  • Improper diet
  • Stress
  • Radiation Treatment to the head and Neck

Treatment for White Hairy Tongue

The most effective treatments for white hairy tongue is observation of right and proper oral hygiene. Other treatments include:

  • Taking plenty of water every day
  • Brush your oral cavity, teeth, gums and tongue using soft bristle on daily basis
  • Keeping the entire mouth well hydrated
  • Habitual changes i.e. Refraining from excessive drinking of caffeinated drinks and giving your back to smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • Scrap you tongue using tongue scrapper to remove debris and other microorganism or your tongue

Hairy tongue disease in adults

Hairy tongue is more prevalent in adults than in children. Well, there this simple perception backing up this sentiments. It true that adult are more exposed to risk factors of hairy tongue than the children are.

Talk of smoking cigarette, drinking alcohol, suffering diabetes or living HIV/AIDs positive. All these factors are more common in adults than in children and that why we say hairy tongue is more prevalent in adults.

When to see a Doctor?

Usually, black or white hairy tongue is painless and harmless apart from developing alongside bad breath. There are remedies that can be used to get rid of this condition. You should see your doctor when your hairy tongue is persistent even after using the treatments procedures we have mentioned.

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Our list of references
  1. Hairy Tongue:
  2. Hairy Tongue:
  3. Hairy Tongue Treatment & Management:
  4. Black Hairy Tongue:
  5. Black hairy tongue:
  6. Hairy Tongue:
  7. Causes, Treatments, and Pictures of Black & White Hairy Tongue:

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