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Do you ever have a furry looking tongue that looks black? If so, you may have a condition called Black Hairy Tongue. While black hairy tongue looks scary, it is actually harmless, painless, and temporary. It shows up when the tiny bumps on the surface of the tongue (papillae) grow and lengthen, trap oral bacteria, and dye the tongue. Normal papillae are pinkish white, and shed regularly. If they don’t shed, they grow and get long, looking like hair. They can actually grow to 15 times what they normally do! Normally the color is black, but it can turn other colors like brown, yellow, green, etc.

What causes Black Hairy Tongue?

  1. Lack of saliva production and dehydration
  2. Antibiotic use or medications
  3. Poor oral hygiene
  4. Tobacco use
  5. Drinking lots of coffee and tea
  6. Using mouthwashes with peroxide, menthol or witch hazel

How do you get rid of it? Gently brush your tongue twice a day, using a toothbrush or tongue scraper, drink plenty of water, and if that doesn’t help, you can use medication to help.

Along with Black Hairy Tongue, your mouth can have other sores and lesions:

Cold sores/fever blisters are triggered by fevers and colds even though they are not directly caused by them. Because cold sores are viral and contagious, you want to avoid close contact with someone who has them (or vice versa). This means not sharing utensils or toothbrushes–which is not recommended anyway–or kissing. Don’t worry, it’s only temporary! Cold sores are treated easily using over-the-counter creams or ointments to relieve pain and speed healing. If you get cold sores frequently, you can enlist a doctor’s help by getting a prescription.

Canker sores are a little more unpredictable. No one can really tell you why you get these lesions on your tongue, inside your cheek, or on the gums. These small, painful blisters are triggered by infection, hormones, hypersensitivity, stress or even a vitamin deficiency. Canker sores don’t usually last more than a couple of weeks, but if they do linger past that, you can use medications, numbing creams, or have dental laser treatment to remove them.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like more information, please call Greg Wolfe Family Dentistry at 805-654-1174 today!