Have you ever seen “Harry” Tongue? He’s NOT the new neighbor on the block!!

Hairy tongue, also known as black tongue, is a gentle condition of elongation and staining of the fingerlike projections (papillae) on the tongue surface. This condition may be caused by overgrowth of a bacteria or yeast that produces a colored substance. Hairy tongue can occur at any age. Hairy tongue is rarely symptomatic, although overgrowth of Candida albicans may consequence in glossopyrosis. Medications that commonly cause hairy tongue comprise antibiotics, anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, and anti-cholinergic agents.

Contributory factors for hairy tongue are many and contain tobacco use and coffee or tea drinking. These factors account for the various colors related with the condition. Tongue problems include pain, swelling, or a change in how the tongue looks. The prevalence of hairy tongue varies broadly, from 8.3% in children and young adults to 57% in persons who are addicted to drugs and incarcerated. Hairy tongue has been reported with greater frequency in males.

The treatment of hairy tongue is variable. Practice good oral hygiene for hairy tongue and black tongue. Be sure to eat a well-balanced diet. Antihistamines can help relieve a swollen tongue caused by allergies. Surgical removal of the papillae by using electrodesiccation, carbon dioxide laser, or even scissors is the treatment of last resort when less complicated therapies prove ineffective. Topical application of retinoids has been used with some success.

Keratolytic agents are effective but may be irritating. Gently brush the tongue with a toothbrush twice daily. Maintain good oral hygiene with regular tooth brushing. Minimize mouthwash use and avoid smoking or chewing tobacco. Eat more foods with fiber (fruits and vegetables); sucking on pieces of fresh pineapple may also be helpful. You should avoid the food or drug that causes the tongue swelling. Therapy may be needed to improve speech and swallowing ability.

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