Black hairy tongue? Improved oral hygiene could help

Poor oral hygiene can be associated with a condition known as black hairy tongue, according to a case report published online in September in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the case report, a 55-year-old woman who was treated with antibiotics after sustaining injuries in a car accident showed black discoloration on her tongue and raised papillae, or the nipple-like structures on the tongue.

In addition to certain antibiotics, black hairy tongue can be associated with the use of tobacco or irritating mouthwashes and poor oral hygiene, according to the case report.

To help maintain good oral hygiene, American Dental Association’s consumer website,, recommends brushing teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between teeth once a day with floss, replacing toothbrushes every three or four months, eating balanced diet and limiting between-meal snacks, and scheduling regular dental check-ups.

Black hairy tongue is often reversible. For the woman in the case report, physicians changed the medication she was on and advised her to practice good oral hygiene. Within about a month, her tongue returned to a normal color.

For more information about practicing good oral hygiene, visit

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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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