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What is black tongue?

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Quick Answer

Black tongue, also known as black hairy tongue, is a condition where dead skin cells accumulate in unusually long tongue projections, known as papillae, and are stained dark by food, tobacco or other substances, explains Mayo clinic. Despite its strange appearance, black tongue is usually a harmless condition.

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Full Answer

The cause of black tongue is not always discoverable, but possible causes include taking antibiotics, medications containing bismuth, tobacco use, poor oral hygiene and dry mouth, according to Mayo Clinic. Other possible causes include regular use of certain mouthwashes, drinking hot beverages and eating a very soft diet. Conditions that can cause similar discoloration of the tongue include viral infections, fungal infections and certain foods or medications that can discolor a normal tongue. Medical attention may be needed if brushing the teeth and tongue twice a day does not resolve the condition.

The primary symptoms of black tongue are cosmetic and include a hairy appearance along with the discoloration, states Mayo Clinic. Other possible symptoms include a metallic taste in the mouth, a gagging or tickling sensation and bad breath. Ideally, a person with black tongue should brush both teeth and tongue after every meal. Flossing is also helpful in curing this condition. Regular visits to the dentist can allow early detection and resolution of problems such as black tongue.

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