“Black Hairy Tongue” is a medical condition where the tongue appears black and hairy”. The small bumpy projections on a healthy tongue, called papillae, are normally less than 1mm in length and are the normal color of the tongue. In Black Hairy Tongue these papillae can reach 12 to 18 mm and trap microscopic food particles providing a banquet on which bacteria can dine. These bacteria are what cause the discoloration. So, a Black Hairy Tongue has no hair at all, just longer papillae entrapped food particles and a host of bacteria.
The Black Hairy tongue is unsightly, can cause a metallic taste, bad breath and at times discomfort. The human mouth normally has a large variety of bacteria. Some are actually beneficial to maintain the pH of the oral cavity and help initiate digestion. When the bacterial ecosystem gets out of balance we see conditions such as Black Hairy Tongue. Medications,( particularly antibiotics), probiotics, coffee, mouthwash or alcohol can cause the condition. Typically, when the offending medication or product is discontinued the condition resolves without medical treatment. As always, brushing or scraping the tongue, and good oral hygiene practice is recommended. If the condition does not resolve within two weeks of discontinuation of the probable causative agent, see your dentist or primary medical doctor.