Date: June, 2023
A black hairy tongue can be startling to patients, but it is benign. Dr. Scott Froum explains the etiology of black hairy tongue and offers recommendations for treatment.
Summary: Black hairy tongue (appearance of a black tongue)—also known as lingua villosa nigra—is a black appearance on the top (dorsal surface) of the tongue and growth of the papillae on the tongue that make it appear as if hair is growing there.1 While it is named black hairy tongue, the tongue can also appear brown, yellow, green, or bluish (figure 1).2 Black hairy tongue typically does not hurt, but bad breath (halitosis), altered taste (dysgeusia), dry mouth (xerostomia), and/or burning of the tongue can occur.3
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