What you must know about hairy tongue

Hairy tongue is really a medical problem where the top of tongue assumes a discolored and furry appearance.

Even though it may appear uncomfortable, hairy tongue is really a relatively harmless condition that may be easily worked with generally.

Here, we’ll discuss what hairy tongue is, how it may be triggered and just how it might be treated or avoided.

Fast details on hairy tongue:

  • The precise reasons for hairy tongue are occasionally unknown.
  • Many instances have no signs and symptoms apart from appearance.
  • Treatments include good dental hygiene, regular brushing, and mouthwash.

What’s hairy tongue

Dentist looking at patient's tongue and mouth.
Hairy tongue happens when an accumulation of filiform papillae forms around the tongue, developing a layer of ‘hair’.

Top of the top of the tongue is rough in texture since it is covered in small, processes or protrusions known as papillae. There are many kinds of papillae, probably the most numerous which are known as filiform papillae.

Filiform papillae are elongated, cone-formed protrusions accountable for the gripping of food on the top of tongue. These structures usually grow to around 1 millimeter long prior to being shed in the tongue, allowing brand new ones to develop.

Hairy tongue takes place when these filiform papillae don’t shed correctly, and there’s an accumulation of your skin protein referred to as keratin. At these times, food, bacteria, or yeast build up within the over-keratinized filiform papillae network and cause odd discoloration.

When shedding is delayed, filiform papillae continue to develop within the keratin and resemble your hair-like protrusions that the problem got its name.

How common is hairy tongue?

Based on the American Academy of Dental Medicine, hairy tongue is believed to affect around 13 % of people, nevertheless its prevalence varies in certain groups. For instance, hairy tongue is a lot more common in people with certain drug addictions.

The likelihood of hairy tongue developing increase as we grow older, because the results of risks, for example tobacco use, convey more time for you to accumulate.


Black hairy tongue. Image credit: Com4, (2007, February 22)
Black hairy tongue may result from tobacco, tea, or coffee.
Image credit: Com4, (2007, Feb 22)

Different facets can trigger the start of hairy tongue. Included in this are:

  • A gentle diet: Too little stimulation for abrasion to the top of tongue can prevent sufficient shedding from the papillae.
  • Poor dental hygiene: This could result in a buildup of bacteria or yeast, adding to hairy tongue.
  • Certain substances: Tobacco use, in addition to excessive use of alcohol, tea or coffee, for instance.
  • Lack of fluids or xerostomia: Insufficient moisture within the mouth can produce a person more vulnerable to getting hairy tongue.
  • Certain medications: Included in this are some treating stomach acidity reflux.
  • Dental hygiene products: Certain kinds of mouthwash, for example individuals that contains peroxide.

Hairy tongue may take on a variety of colors, however, many triggers may cause specific colors to build up. A good example of this really is black hairy tongue, that is connected with the intake of tobacco, coffee, tea, or utilization of some mouthwashes.

A tongue using the condition known as dental hairy leukoplakia is generally the result of a viral infection, for example hiv (Aids) or Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), weakening an individual’s defense mechanisms.

The microscopic appearance of the tongue with dental hairy leukoplakia is different from those of hairy tongue, because the two the weather is different. However, dental hairy leukoplakia may cause the tongue to possess white-colored patches that appear to be hairy to look at upon close inspection.

Signs and symptoms

Appearance aside, it’s possible for other signs and symptoms of hairy tongue to build up, including:

  • a burning sensation around the tongue
  • a tickling on the top from the mouth when swallowing
  • a gagging sensation
  • foul breath, also known as halitosis
  • a metallic style of the mouth area
  • nausea

Prevention and treatment

Young man brushing his tongue in the bathroom mirror
Practicing good dental hygiene, and lightly brushing the tongue, might help to prevent and treat hairy tongue.

Treatment is frequently not essential for hairy tongue, because it is typically a transient condition, which poses no serious health risks.

Prevention and treatment are usually achieved through changes to some person’s lifestyle that could have trigger the start of hairy tongue. Dental hygiene and regular appointments with the dental professional are the most useful methods to stop hairy tongue from occurring.

It’s also necessary to conserve a nutritious and well-balance diet, that contains a great balance of fruits, vegetables, grains, and minimal sugar to advertise dental health.

Consuming an adequate amount of water during the day may also help to help keep the mouth area clean.

Other approaches can include:

  • Staying away from or restricting the intake of substances which are connected with hairy tongue, for example coffee, tea, alcohol, or tobacco.
  • Brushing the tongue or utilizing a specialized tongue scraper to assist with dental hygiene.
  • Switching medications, if this sounds like a suspected trigger of hairy tongue. However, this will simply be attempted in consultation having a physician.

In rare cases, the problem could be more persistent, and medical help ought to be searched for from the physician or perhaps a dental professional.

If changes in lifestyle haven’t been effective for the problem, a physician or dental professional may recommend further evaluation along with a focused treatment. For instance, an antibiotic or antifungal medication might be prescribed to get rid of bacteria or yeast.

It’s also possible in some instances to achieve the filiform papillae surgically removed.


The uncomfortable appearance of hairy tongue could cause some mental discomfort or embarrassment, but it’s often a harmless condition without any other signs and symptoms.

Maintaining good dental hygiene is essential in stopping and treating incidences of hairy tongue. However, in rare cases, medicine or surgery may be required to deal with the problem.

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