I have black hairy tongue! Yikes! Advice?
August 9, 2007 5:10 PM   Subscribe

Following some dental adventures, I seem to have some lingua villosa nigra, aka "black [hairy] tongue". Reportedly harmless, but is there anything (a) I should know or worry about, and (b) I can do to quash it on the double?

I've found some documentation online [e.g. 1, 2, 3] which seems to match up with what I'm experiencing well: it's painless and otherwise asymptomatic, and I've been using a crazy powerful mouthwash for the last week as prescribed by my oral surgeon after an extraction last Tuesday.

My oral hygiene the last week is impeccable, and I haven't been flirting with any of the other commonly mentioned personal-habit causes other than a cup of coffee every other day. The bio-wasteland my mouthwash has brought on seems like the culprit.

I've set up an appointment with the mouth man for tomorrow evening, which will hopefully confirm that this is what's going on, but I'm curious what specific experiences folks have had with this, and if there's anything particularly helpful to do to de-funk my mouth besides the apparently standard advice of gentle tongue-brushing and mild peroxide rinses.
posted by cortex to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
No experience with this, but... Have you tried one of those tongue scrapers? A dentist gave me one a few years ago for general mouth hygiene. I think it does wonders that brushing the tongue never could. Don't know what mouthwash you're using, but listerine seems to kill everything within sight of my mouth.
posted by DarkForest at 5:43 PM on August 9, 2007

You might want to try taking probiotics. Even simply upping your intake of plain yogurt might do the trick. How much longer do you need to use the industrial-strength mouthwash?

If your mouth isn't painful, then I don't think it's thrush. But if your surgeon deems it so, you might want to give 1% Gentian Violet a try. It's routinely used with babies suffering from thrush with pretty good success. Caveat emptor: the stuff is super messy.
posted by dancinglamb at 6:13 PM on August 9, 2007

It's highly likely that it's black hairy tongue, and it's highly likely that it's the mouthwash. People often get this as a result of the "biowasteland" you've created. (Black hairy tongue isn't the same as thrush, by the way). Listerine gives me black hairy tongue, just as DarkForest describes.

I don't think I'd go with the mild peroxide rinse, because peroxide GIVES some people black hairy tongue (although that might be undiluted peroxide). But gentle brushing sounds good.

I'd see how soon you can quit using the mouthwash, because it will resolve quickly when you quit.
posted by lleachie at 6:28 PM on August 9, 2007

Response by poster: I'm hoping and expecting the answer to the mouthwash question will be "immediately"—the wounds from the dental work have healed over into nice happy skin at this point, so chances are the doc will just cut me off. Will update on that front tomorrow, natch.

And huh. I could really go for some yogurt anyhow; I'll toss that on the grocery list.
posted by cortex at 6:47 PM on August 9, 2007

Go to your local high-end food store, and look for a yogurt or cottage cheese that contains "L.Acidophilus" ... this took care of my hairy tounge. As a side effect it helped out my digestion. And brush your tounge.
posted by SpecialK at 8:55 PM on August 9, 2007

Careful with the Gentian violet, though—some people are allergic to it.
posted by limeonaire at 9:42 PM on August 9, 2007

Fresh pineapple. My father and brother both had this and cured it by eating fresh pineapple. Apparently, there is an enzyme in the pineapple juice (or maybe it's just the acid) and it should eradicate the problem in less than a week.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 10:45 PM on August 9, 2007

You mentioned an extraction last Tuesday. Are you taking antibiotics as a result? If so, it could go away after you finish those. If not, my vote is for the mouthwash.

Keep us posted. I want to hear what comes of this.
posted by stuboo at 4:05 AM on August 10, 2007

Seconding pineapple. I've always been really susceptible to yeast infections in the mouth (and have consequently heard just about every possible dirty joke that can be made about such a situation), and pineapple always helps clear it right up.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:27 AM on August 10, 2007

the exact same thing happened to my tongue, after the last of a series of oral surgeries. when i stopped the mega-antibiotic mouthwash that accompanied my post-surgical regimen, the icky black hairs went away in like two days.

hopefully, by now, yours have done the same.
posted by deejay jaydee at 8:30 AM on August 13, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah, update: ceased with the mouthwash, situation improving rapidly. Just a hint of the black near that back as of this morning!

Oral surgeon listened to my explanation (and my qualified speculation on the lingua villosa theory) and left the room; he returned two minutes later with a post it listing the same indicators I found on Wikipedia et al, and told me to stop with the mouthwash and call him in a week if the stuff didn't clear up.

I'll try to get a picture up in a day or so.
posted by cortex at 8:47 AM on August 13, 2007

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