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Brown Tongue: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

You’re looking in a mirror and catch a glimpse of your tongue. It looks different. You stick it out, and you think, “That’s weird; why is my tongue brown?” Don’t panic. Here’s what to know and do if there is a brown coating on your tongue.

Symptoms and Causes of Brown Tongue

A healthy tongue is light pink and covered with small nodules (papillae). Typically, a healthy tongue sheds and regenerates continuously. If that doesn’t happen, bacteria and other substances become trapped. This bacteria can cause your tongue to look brown. Several things can cause this deviation in color. Brown tongue causes include smoking, drinking a lot of coffee or tea, and poor oral hygiene.

If not treated, the nodules can get larger than usual and give the tongue a hairy appearance. This issue is referred to as Black Hairy Tongue.

Treatment Options for Brown Tongue

Brown tongue is very treatable and usually something you can take care of on your own. Good oral hygiene is essential. Remember, when you brush your teeth, brush your tongue as well. Use a toothbrush designed to include a cheek and tongue cleaner. Make sure to use the scraper part of the toothbrush to slough off dead cells. If you’re a coffee drinker, drink less. If you’re a smoker, it is never too late to quit. Drink more water for increased hydration and eat a healthy diet. All of these things will help remove most of the discoloration. Additionally, you can swish with antimicrobial mouthwash or warm salt water to reduce the chance of bacterial growth.

While it may be alarming to look in your mouth and see a brown tongue, know it’s very curable. Having a good oral health routine is vital. If you’re concerned or don’t see improvement within a few days, contact your dental professional to set up an appointment after trying the treatment options mentioned.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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