Why Do I Have Black Tongue?

If you want to know why do I have black tongue? There may not be a straight answer. This is because there can be many causes for a black appearing tongue. It doesn’t necessarily have to be black, but can also appear yellow or brown. It can also be accompanied by bad odor or even have fuzz on it. People also complain of a bad or metal taste in their mouth.

You may be frightened to hear “black hairy tongue” but it actually isn’t anything to worry about. It is most likely a type of fungus or bacteria that is pretty easy to treat. Read on for more information to help answer this question for you.

Why Is My Tongue Black?

Black hairy tongue is most likely caused by a growth of yeast or bacteria in your oral areas. The round things on your tongue are known as the papillae and can build up things like bacteria or yeast. They are normally supposed to slough off on their own, but in some cases they grow larger and look like hairs on the tongue. They have been known to get 15 times larger than they should be giving the tongue a “fuzzy” appearance.

The overgrown papillae most likely will not hurt, but some people complain of a burning or stinging feeling. This is usually only common in infections with yeast. The fuzz on the tongue may make people gag or it can tickle the roof of the mouth when you swallow. The accumulated bacteria can also cause bad breath.

Papillae are usually a white to pinkish color, but whatever you eat or drink can make them appear a different color. Coffee can make them look brown, yeast can make them look yellow, but it often turns black. Some people can even have green tongues or some other strange color. It can even occur from eating dyed foods like cake frosting or candies of certain colors. Keep in mind that excess sugar intake can promote yeast growth on the tongue.

Besides the causes listed above, the answer to “Why is my tongue black,” may lie in your lifestyle choices or health issues. These can include:

  • Lack of teeth brushing or mouth cleaning
  • Smoking cigarettes or cigars
  • Radiation treatments for cancer to the neck or head areas
  • Ingredients in mouthwash that contain peroxide, menthol, or witch hazel
  • Excessive use of black tea or coffee
  • Lack of saliva or conditions that affect the salivary glands
  • Certain antibiotics that cause yeast overgrowth in the body or mouth
  • Inadequate fluid intake and dehydration
  • Medications that contain Bismuth (pepto bismol)
  • Injected street drugs
  • HIV
  • Gender (more often seen in men than women)

A Word on Pepto Bismol and Black Tongue:

Certain types of medication used for stomach issues that contain bismuth subsalicylate can turn the tongue black for hours after you take it. This ingredient is used in Pepto Bismol and other drugs for heartburn, indigestion, diarrhea, and nausea. It is also used in treatment for H. Pylori bacteria infections in the stomach. This medication must be taken with water and if you don’t use water the medication on your tongue will make it black. This is most common with the chewable tablets. Many people report their tongue turning black for a number of days after it has been used.

What to Do About Black Hairy Tongue?

After you have learned the answer to, “Why is my tongue black,” you probably want to know what to do about it. There are some easy tips to help get your tongue back to normal. These include:

1.       Better Oral Care

  • You need to step up your mouth cleaning routine. Even if you brush your teeth and clean your mouth often, you need to do it more when you have a black tongue. Switch to a soft toothbrush and start brushing your teeth at least twice daily. If you can fit it in to your schedule, try to brush after every meal. Use toothpaste that contains fluoride to help kill the bacteria.
  • Make sure you pay attention to your tongue. If you aren’t in pain, a tongue scraper can help get your tongue good and clean. Cleaning your tongue can help remove any food particles, cells, and bacteria growth.
  • Swish your mouth with plenty of plain water and increase the amount of water you drink during the day. Swish your mouth after each meal if you aren’t able to brush your teeth.
  • Floss your teeth. Use dental floss on a daily basis to help keep the bacteria levels down in your mouth.
  • Use warm saltwater rinse. Take 1 cup of warm water(about 237 milliliters) and dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in it (about 2.5 milliliters). Swish and then spit out, but never swallow it. Do this twice daily.

2.       Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

  • Quit somking. If you can quit smoking altogether great! If you can’t quit, a t least avoid smoking while you have a black tongue.
  • Increase fiber and roughage. Increase foods that contain high fiber and roughage like salads and vegetables. These help to clean the tongue while you eat.
  • See your dentist on a regular basis. Make sure you keep up with getting your teeth clean and checked on a regular basis. If you have problem areas in your mouth, your dentist can catch and treat them early on before they cause infections.

3.       Medical Treatment

If your black tongue continues more than a week without clearing up by itself and home treatments, you need to contact your physician or a dentist to address the problem. You may need treatment with a yeast medication or an antibiotic to kill any germs that may be causing the issue. Doctors can also use Retin-A to help fade the black coloring. The doctor may have to trim any hairy growth surgically, with a laser, or electro-surgery. 

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