Brown Tongue: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

When you look in the mirror, stick out your tongue and notice that it's brown, you may be wondering why. A few lifestyle habits may cause a brown tongue, but luckily, breaking those habits and adopting healthy ones may get your tongue looking and feeling healthy.

Symptoms and Causes of Brown Tongue

The surface tissue of the tongue is covered with small, conical-shaped bumps of tissue called filiform papillae that are about 1 millimeter long, according to the American Academy of Oral Medicine.

Under normal circumstances, healthy tongue papillae are pale pink, and they shed and regenerate continuously. These projections of tissue trap and collect bacteria and other substances, and this can cause tongue discoloration. Occasionally, shedding doesn't take place as it should and they grow larger than normal, giving the tongue a hairy appearance.

Your tongue papillae can become discolored for a number of reasons, which include smoking, drinking excessive amounts of coffee or tea, and poor oral hygiene. The discoloration combined with the longer length of the papillae may lead to a brown tongue, says Medscape.

Treatment Options for Brown Tongue

Sound oral hygiene is your first line of defense against a brown tongue. Drinking less coffee, stopping smoking and eating a healthy diet combined with improved oral hygiene will remove most of the discoloration.

Start your treatment at home by brushing twice daily with a toothbrush, such as the Colgate 360° Advanced 4 Zone toothbrush, which has an innovative cheek and tongue cleaner design. Use the scraper part of the toothbrush daily to slough off dead cells, eat a healthy diet, and make sure you drink enough water everyday to keep your body well-hydrated.

You can also swish with an antimicrobial mouthwash or warm salt water to reduce the chance of bacterial growth.

Make a Dental Appointment

If the discoloration doesn't improve within a few days, make an appointment with your dentist to determine what the reason for the discoloration could be and to check whether your mouth and teeth are in good condition otherwise.

Tongue discoloration is usually not cause for concern in itself, notes the National Institutes of Health, but poor oral hygiene can lead to tooth decay and gum disease if it's not resolved.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tips for a Healthy Diet

  • Foods high in sugar are a particularly common cause of tooth decay. Making these foods a treat rather than a staple will help protect your teeth.

  • To maintain a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups.

  • When choosing a snack, go for nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit.