The Black Tongue And What It Says About Your Oral Health
To sustain your pearly whites and keep gum health in check, being diligent in your oral care is an absolute must. But despite regular brushing and flossing, unexplainable issues can arise seemingly out of nowhere, such as the black tongue.
While no one wants to wake one day and realise that their tongue has turned into a darker shade, there is a possibility of this occurrence. And it’s natural for those who contract this condition to worry about their oral and overall health. But if your tongue has turned colour, worry not because a black tongue is a minor condition that is very much reversible!
What exactly is the Black Tongue?
The black tongue is a phenomenon where the tongue turns a shade darker than its usual colour. To get to the bottom of this condition, you’d need to understand how your tongue works.
The top surface and sides of your tongue are covered with small, raised bumps referred to as ‘papillae’. Typically, these bumps shed off and are replaced periodically, much like the way our skin does. But sometimes, the shedding process is halted, and the papillae grow longer. When this occurs, food and bacteria can get trapped along with a build-up of dead skin cells on the tongue, causing a dark layer to form (sometimes it can even resemble hair).
What halts the shedding process?
There is no conclusive study on its main culprit. However, experts have discovered several possible factors, such as the following.
1. Low production of saliva
Your saliva primarily helps to swallow the dead skin cells and remove them from the tongue’s surface. This is usually a seamless process, but if you’ve not been producing enough saliva, dead skin cells can linger on the surface and darken over time.
2. Bad oral hygiene
If you skip brushing your teeth, the more likely a black tongue will develop. This is because food particles and dead skin cells that aren’t removed regularly can darken on the tongue’s surface.
3. A liquid diet
For those turning to a liquid diet for weight loss, it’s best to keep your tongues in check. Solid foods can help to scrape dead skin cells off the tongue, but when a person reduces solid food intake, the papillae can be harder to shed off.
4. Medical side effects
A dry mouth is a common side effect of certain medication. When a mouth is dry, there is often a low rate of saliva production, which can then lead to the appearance of a black tongue.
What can you do to prevent or treat this?
As concerning as black tongues may seem, you can rest your worries away because the treatment doesn’t warrant any medication. In fact, the condition can go away on its own. But to speed things up and bring your tongue’s natural shade back, here’s what you can do.
1. Brush your teeth regularly
This is a great way of assisting the tongue’s shedding process because it removes food debris and bacteria. If you brush each time you finish meals, you can prevent a black tongue from happening in the first place.
2. Boost your water intake
Hydration is key – drink plenty of water and stay hydrated at all times so that you can help shed off your tongue’s dead skin cells more effectively.
3. Chew gum
Yes, many dentists advise against chewing gum because of its high sugar content. However, there are sugar-free chewing gums that will help you induce more saliva the longer you chew on it. The more saliva you produce, the more papillae that are due for shedding can be removed.
4. Use a tongue scraper
Using a tongue scraper is an effective way to remove not just leftover food particles but also dead skin cells that linger even after you’ve brushed your teeth.
If you happen to wake one day and notice that your tongue has turned a shade or two darker, don’t worry, you need not be too concerned about this condition. This is all part of your tongue’s natural shedding process – as long as you observe proper oral hygiene, your tongue will return to its normal state in no time.
But if you’re experiencing a prolonged case of the black tongue, it’s time to turn to a professional for help. Established in 2007, our team of dental professionals here at Luminous Dental have honed their expertise through years of experience, treating patients with top quality and care. Whether you need a bad tooth removed or want to switch your braces to Invisalign dental treatment or Damon braces, you’re guaranteed to be in safe hands with us.