What does black spots on the tongue mean?

This blogpost will answer the question What does black spots on the tongue mean?

And will include the following topics: Black Spots on Tongue: Causes

Black hairy tongue

Causes of black hairy tongue

Symptoms of black hairy tongue

Diagnosing the cause

Home remedies for black tongue

Treatment for black tongue

When to see a doctor

What does black spots on the tongue mean?

Spots, patches, and discolouration on the tongue just might be harmless, but they can also be an indication of something more serious. Black spots on the tongue can range in size from microscopic dots to large black patches that are very scary. Inform a dentist or physician if you observe black spots and seek an appropriate diagnosis.

Black Spots on Tongue: Causes

Natural Appearance of Your Tongue 

Though you may have seen the black spots on your tongue for the first time, they might be a normal component of your tongue’s appearance. The tongue is a muscle with taste buds on it. As you chew, it moves food around your mouth, and your taste buds send taste signals to your brain. Taste buds are visible to the naked eye, and when stained by red wine or coffee, they can pop up and seem as black patches.

Black patches on the tongue might also be a sign of a disorder known as hyperpigmentation. Pigmentation is responsible for the colour of skin, hair, and eyes, and an excess of pigment in the tongue can cause harmless dark patches or spots, which can occur as a result of chemotherapy. The black patches that result from hyperpigmentation and chemotherapy normally fade away a few weeks after the treatment has ended.

Injury and your Tongue

Black patches on the tongue can be caused by oral piercings and tongue injuries. This is because damage to your tongue might result in a dark-colored sore. A black patch on your tongue might be a persistent evidence of injury if you’ve recently had an oral piercing or bitten, cut, or otherwise damaged it. If the sore persists, hurts, or becomes infected, make an appointment with your dentist to discuss treatment options.

Chemical Exposure to your Tongue

Certain substances react with acids on the surface of the tongue, turning it black. The colour change might be caused by exposure to the chemical bismuth, which is included in several drugs used to treat stomach distress. Though the entire tongue frequently goes black, the alteration may first appear in patches. When you stop taking bismuth, your tongue should revert to its normal pink colour.

Tongue Cancer

Dark spots on the tongue are hardly ever a symptom of a severe illness such as cancer. The black patches might sometimes look as scabs or unhealed wounds. Other symptoms of tongue cancer include lumps, swelling, and difficulty swallowing. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should consult a doctor right away. Though tongue cancer is a dangerous condition, therapy is most successful when it starts in the early stages of the condition.

If the patches are gray/white, they may indicate a precancerous condition known as leukoplakia.

Black hairy tongue

Black hairy tongue is a transient, harmless oral disorder that causes the tongue to appear black and furry. The distinctive appearance is mainly caused by a buildup of dead skin cells on the many small projections (papillae) on the surface of the tongue that contain taste receptors. Bacteria, yeast, cigarettes, food, and other items may readily capture and stain these longer-than-normal papillae.

Although a black hairy tongue may appear frightening, it usually causes no health issues and is painless. Eliminating potential causes or contributing factors, as well as maintaining proper oral hygiene, typically results in a resolution of black hairy tongue..

Causes of black hairy tongue

Keratin is a protein that covers the tongue’s surface.

Keratin is normally lost as skin cells shed. Keratin, on the other hand, can build up on the tongue at times. As a result, the tongue may seem black and discoloured. Doctors call this a black hairy tongue.

The following factors increase the risk of keratin building up on the tongue:

poor oral hygiene, which may result from not regularly brushing or scraping the tongue

drinking coffee or black tea

smoking and other forms of tobacco use

recent or prolonged use of antibiotics

having a weak immune system due to a medical condition, such as diabetes or HIV

a condition called trigeminal neuralgia, which affects the facial nerves

radiation therapy.

Symptoms of black hairy tongue

Depending on the underlying reason, black tongue can induce a variety of symptoms.

The tongue does not always turn black when you have a black tongue. The predominant symptom, on the other hand, is that the tongue seems hairy due to the presence of long, thread-like growths.

People who have a black tongue typically do not have any other symptoms. Some people, however, may experience the following:

a discolored tongue that is black, brown, gray, or yellow

a tongue that feels fuzzy or sticky

a bad taste in the mouth

bad breath

a burning sensation


Diagnosing the cause

Dentists are trained to look for indicators of oral cancer and other problems in your mouth and tongue. It is advisable to visit your dentist twice a year for a full examination. Consult your dentist or doctor if you have spots on your tongue for more than a few weeks and don’t know what’s causing them.

Many tongue lumps and bumps, such as thrush and black hairy tongue, may be identified based only on appearance. Other symptoms, such as pain or lumps in your mouth, neck, or throat, all medications and supplements you take, whether or not you smoke or have smoked in the past, whether or not you drink alcohol or have done so in the past, and whether or not you have a compromised immune system should all be discussed with your doctor.

your personal and family cancer history

Even while the majority of spots are harmless and go away on their own, spots and lumps on your tongue or anyplace in your mouth might be an indication of cancer.

If your doctor suspects tongue cancer, you may require certain imaging tests, such as X-rays or positron emission tomography (PET) scans. A biopsy of the suspected tissue can help your doctor determine whether it is malignant or not.

Home remedies for black tongue

Black tongue is harmless. However, it can indicate that a person is at risk of developing an oral health issue.

Maintaining good oral hygiene can help clear black tongue. People can try:

regularly brushing the tongue with a fluoride toothpaste

using a tongue scraper to remove plaque, bacteria, and other debris from the tongue

rinsing the mouth with warm salt water to improve cleanliness and reduce bad tastes and odors

brushing the tongue after every meal, and not eating after brushing at night

applying baking soda or hydrogen peroxide to the tongue

drinking plenty of water to help keep the mouth clean

eating more raw fruits and vegetables, which can help clean the tongue

Treatment for black tongue

Treatment for a black tongue is relatively simple. Brushing your tongue with a toothbrush on a daily basis should help eliminate dead skin cells and stains within a few days in most instances..

Make an appointment with your doctor if you feel your black tongue is caused by a medicine or a prescribed liquid diet. To assist manage yeast or bacteria in your mouth, they may be able to alter your dosage or prescribe an antifungal or antibacterial prescription.

Your doctor may also prescribe a topical retinoid medication to help increase cell turnover on your tongue.

For stubborn elongated papillae, a doctor can remove them using carbon dioxide laser burning or electrodessication, which simultaneously cuts and seals the papillae.

However, you can usually take care of the condition yourself:

Brush your tongue

Brush your tongue twice a day with a soft toothbrush to help remove dead skin cells and bacteria manually.

Use a tongue scrapper

When you clean your teeth, use a tongue scraper to prevent skin cells from forming on your papillae.

Brush after eating

Brushing your teeth and tongue after each meal will assist to keep food debris and bacteria out of your papillae.

Brush after drinking

Brushing shortly after drinking coffee, tea, and alcohol will help prevent staining.

Stop using tobacco products

The best thing you can do for your tongue and yourself is to stop smoking or chewing tobacco. If you’re not ready to give up tobacco, clean your teeth and tongue after each use, or every 2 hours.

Floss before bed

Flossing your teeth at least once per day will prevent food debris and plaque from building up in your mouth.

Schedule a cleaning

Getting a cleaning at your dentist’s office will help you maintain good oral health.

Drink plenty of water

This will help keep your mouth hydrated, which allows you to swallow dead skin cells.

Chew gum

Chewing a sugar-free gum or a gum made for persons with dry mouths helps encourage the production of more saliva, which will help wipe away dead skin cells. Gum helps to remove trapped skin cells as you chew.

Eat a balanced diet

A diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains will help you maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your mouth.

When to see a doctor

Although black tongue is concerning, it is not a medical emergency.

It is advisable to wait a few days and try various home treatments before consulting a doctor or dentist. However, if a person’s symptoms persist or worsen, he or she should seek medical attention..

Sometimes, black tongue occurs with other symptoms of an oral health problem, such as:

gum pain

mouth infection

tooth infection

a broken tooth

If a person’s black tongue is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, they should contact a doctor or dentist as soon as possible:



visibly damaged teeth

Other FAQs about Tongue Health that you may be interested in.

Why does my tongue have a crack down the middle?

Can Your Tongue Get Sunburned?

Why did I wake up with a black tongue?

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