The Talking Monster
Alarm rings; you wake up. Your feet shuffle across to the bathroom, and you flip on the lightswitch, bracing for bright light. Your hands settle on the bathroom counter, and you look into the mirror. Like a yawning cave, you part your lips to reveal the horror inside. The appendage that was once bald and pink as a newborn pig has now turned into a black bear - a hairy tongue, blacker than the day before. You can't understand it.
Black Tongue Origins
Physical conditions and diseases usually have a long, complicated Latin name to describe them, but in this case, medical doctors either call it black tongue or black hairy tongue. Humans have dealt with this condition as long as we've known; there's no particular historic point. Although many animals have a black (or gray) tongue, the color is permanent rather than temporary, as it normally is in humans. Cows, giraffes, and even some dogs possess a black-colored tongue.
Symptoms of Black Hairy Tongue
Other symptoms of black tongue are more rare, but they appear more regularly if you don't "nip them in the bud." All are contained within the mouth and throat area.
- Tongue burning, agitation (glossopyrosis)
- Metallic taste
- Bad breath
- Tickling in the back of the throat
Primary Causes of Black Tongue
Much like a showoff at school who can temporarily dislocate his shoulder, a hairy tongue exhibits flashy appearances without serious ramifications. In the vast majority of cases, victims of this condition do not brush their teeth, gums and tongue on a regular basis. Besides shoddy oral hygiene habits, products like cigarettes, chewing tobacco, coffee and tea can stain teeth and all parts of the mouth. Other causes of black hairy tongue include a few surprises:
- Medications like Pepto Bismul including the chemical bismuth in their list of ingredients
- Various types of antibiotics inhibiting or encouraging the growth of oral bacteria
- Mouthwash which includes ingredients such as witch hazel, menthol or peroxide
- Lack of saliva
- Radiation from the upper chest to the top of the head
Remember: Black tongue in itself is not serious, but the bad habits that normally cause this condition can lead to tooth decay, gum disease and spread to other parts of the body. Complications can continue to worsen without proper maintenance of the tongue and mouth. Target your unhealthy habits, not the condition - the condition will clear up once you have started to live a healthier lifestyle.
Tame the Monster: Black Tongue Treatment
Be thorough. If you have an ant problem in your home, you don't spray a single room. You take your canisters into every room, laying waste to every ant that thought they were a guest in your house. Same principle applies to your oral hygiene habits. From this day forth, you are Mr. Clean.
Think about the types of medications and products you put into your mouth each day. If any of those match the elements listed under "causes," them stop your intake immediately (easier said than done, right?). Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth from getting too dry and allowing bacteria to grow in large quantities.
Eat healthy food that keeps you chewing, crunching, and tearing before swallowing it. That tongue needs food that can clean it. If you're consistently practicing all of these newfound habits with little to no results for a month or two, then take the final steps to clean the hair and color off of your tongue.
Final Measures in Black Hairy Tongue Treatment
If you kept up great oral hygiene without results, than unfortunately your mom's method of cleaning out your mouth after letting expletives fly won't do the trick. It is time to see the doctor to receive either:
- Oral prescription drugs such as antifungal or antibiotic medication
- Electrosurgery or laser surgery on the elongated papillae of the tongue
The chances of needing to take these "final measures" are slim and only recommended if you have changed your oral habits for the better. Black tongue has the appearance of something sinister, but it's usually only the outward symbol of an internal problem: Bad oral hygiene. Keep your closet (mouth) clean so that this monster never has a place to hide ever again.