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What causes a black tongue?

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Quick Answer

Excess bacteria or growth of yeast in the mouth causes black hairy tongue, according to WebMD. Papillae are very small, rounded pinkish-white projections on the tongue's surface. When bacteria builds up on papillae, they grow long, absorb pigment from food and other sources, and turn black.

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Full Answer

Several behaviors and conditions can lead to black tongue, such as smoking tobacco, poor oral hygiene, frequently using a mouthwash containing menthol or peroxide, and becoming dehydrated, states WebMD. Intravenous drug users and people who are HIV-positive are more likely to develop black hairy tongue. Generally, black tongue patients do not experience discomfort. A good oral hygiene regimen, including brushing the teeth and tongue twice a day and drinking lots of water, is the best treatment.

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