Black tongue, also known as melanoglossia, is a condition in which the surface of the tongue turns dark or black. It may also become rough and develop a hairy appearance, in which case the condition may be known as black hairy tongue. Although this condition looks unsightly, it is not usually harmful, and it can be resolved with care at home in most cases. In a few instances, however, it may be necessary for someone wkith this problem to see a medical professional for a prescription.
There are a number of causes for black tongue. It can be caused by an overgrowth of fungi or bacteria in the mouth, in which case drugs may be needed to limit the growth, and it has been linked with a number of medications, including antibiotics and drugs that contain bismuth. Smokers, the elderly, people with poor oral hygiene, and people undergoing radiation treatments are all at risk for developing this condition.
Treatment usually involves scraping the tongue with a tongue scraper or brushing it with a toothbrush, in addition to observing better oral hygiene, with regular tooth brushing, flossing, and use of mouthwash. If the problem is persistent, a healthcare professional may take a culture of the black growth to find out what it is and recommend a medication to manage it.
This condition usually starts out as a series of dark spots on the tongue, which gradually merge to form a large dark patch. The tongue may feel heavy or rough in the mouth, and the sense of taste can be disrupted. In some cases, the papillae, also known as the tastebuds, can become swollen and elongated, contributing to the rough appearance. People sometimes develop black tongue overnight, often after taking a medication and not brushing their teeth, and it can be startling to wake up to.
When this problem develops, patients may opt to try self care at home to manage it. If a patient is on medication, it's a good idea to report the black tongue to a medical professional, just in case it's an unexpected side effect. Likewise, patients with compromised immune systems should speak to their healthcare provider about any unusual medical symptoms or conditions that emerge, so that he or she can decide whether or not the patient needs to come in for treatment. As with all conditions that can be managed at home, if the issue does not resolve after several days to a week of treatment, it's best to speak to a healthcare professional.