Why Do I Have Black Spots on My Tongue?

man-showing-his-tongue
Medically reviewed by Dr. Mandy Liedeman

Key Takeaways

  1. There are various causes of ingrown hairs, from curly thick hair texture, shaving or waxing frequently, tight clothing, to no exfoliation. It is essential to understand the reason before diagnosing and treating the ingrown hair.
  2. Ingrown hair can be treated and prevented by using a gentle moisturizer, trimming instead of shaving pubic hair, and practicing exfoliation.
  3. In case of a wound or cut, the bacteria residing on the skin can enter the body and cause infection and inflammation of the ingrown hair bump. Prescribed antibiotics effectively treat this infection.

Overview

Black dots on the tongue can be troublesome and horrifying but don’t always indicate something serious. 

These black spots can be patches, blotches, or discolored spots, but they are mostly harmless. In rare cases, these can indicate something as harmless as coffee or wine stain on your taste buds to something serious like tongue cancer. Without further ado, let’s explore the potential causes, treatments, and remedies for these black marks on the tongue.

Key Takeaways

  1. A healthy tongue looks fleshy pink with numerous taste buds that signal food flavor to the brain. 
  2. In rare cases, black spots on the tongue can be caused by chemical exposure, injury, poor hygiene, hyperpigmentation, hairy black tongue, or tongue cancer. 
  3. To get rid of these spots, drink more water, use tongue scrappers, take care of oral hygiene, reduce caffeinated drinks and alcohol, or use home remedies.

What Does a Healthy Tongue Look Like?

Usually, the tongue looks fleshy pink with small taste buds that improve the chewing experience and help signal flavor to the brain. However, if you read between the lines, tongue appearance is more than just red or pink. Numerous tiny taste buds help you identify the taste of the food you eat and the liquid you drink as part of one of the five senses. These taste buds can sometimes be stained due to the food you eat, for example, coffee or wine, and can appear dark brown to black. This staining will go away in a few days or after washing.

Another reason behind your tongue discoloration or black spots can be hyperpigmentation on the tongue. This can cause black dots to appear on the language as a side effect of chemotherapy, which resolves independently in a few weeks. However, if the situation persists, you might want to look into other causes of the black spots on the tongue to have a clear picture.

Are black spots on tongue serious? Consult an Online Doctor

What Causes Black Spots On The Tongue?

Black spots or dots can indicate various causes, from mild to sometimes severe. Here are six possible causes of black spots on the tongue:

Chemical Exposure

Certain chemicals can react with the taste buds on the tongue and turn it black. Of course, nobody would deliberately eat chemicals, but certain medications contain a particular formula or acids that can change the color of the taste buds or leave some black spots. Like bismuth can change color and is an ingredient in some medicines. 

Injury

Injury or cuts on the tongue or onto the side can also result in black specks on the tongue, either due to tongue piercing or chewing something sharp. If the damage is deep and doesn’t heal, it can cause black spots. 

Tongue Cancer

Tongue cancer can also cause black lesions on the tongue in rare cases in the form of sores or scabs that don’t heal. It is accompanied by other symptoms like swelling and lumps formation, which makes it difficult to swallow. If you experience these symptoms, it is better to contact your healthcare provider at the earliest to cure the problem at an early stage. If the spots are white or gray, it indicates a precancerous medical condition called leukoplakia. 

Poor Hygiene

Excess of everything is bad is a typical but crucial saying, especially regarding health. Eating certain foods in excess or ignoring your oral hygiene for too long can also result in black dots on the tongue. These spots can result from caffeinated beverage intakes like coffee or alcoholic beverages like wine. Papillae can attract the pigment from these foods and form black dots if proper oral care is not done, including not brushing often or not cleaning the tongue. 

Hairy Black Tongue

Although the name gives an impression of a severe condition, this is usually harmless and is caused by a buildup of dead cells on the tongue’s surface. The cells called taste buds are on the tongue surface, and the bumps are called papillae. In hairy black tongue conditions, the dead cell doesn’t shed, creating black spots due to buildup resulting in a metallic taste and bad breath. It happens due to bacteria or fungus that reacts with the dead cells’ buildup and causes black spotting.

Poor oral hygiene or increased alcohol or caffeine can increase the chances of a black hairy tongue. An excellent antifungal or antibacterial treatment can help treat this condition. 

Tongue Discoloration

The pigment is essential for our hair, skin, and eye color, but excess can cause hyperpigmentation. Oral hyperpigmentation can cause black freckles and purple, brown, grey, or blue, and it is a symptom of adrenal or genetic disorder, i.e., Addison’s disease or Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome, respectively.

It can also be a side effect of chemotherapy, but that fades away in a few weeks. Another autoimmune condition called leukoplakia or oral hairy leukoplakia can develop if the spots are white to grey and are present on the side of the tongue. 

What illness makes your tongue black? Ask a Doctor Now

How To Get Rid Of Black Spots On Your Tongue?

Let’s face it; whatever the reason, nobody likes black spots on their tongue or over any body part. Therefore, it is best to get them removed at the earliest. Here’s what you can do to get rid of them: 

  1. Oral Hygiene: Focus on your oral hygiene and minimize the intake of caffeinated or alcoholic beverages and tobacco as much as possible until fully cured. Brush more often and use tongue cleaners for effective results. 
  2. Personalized Treatment: If the spots persist, get a consultation from your doctor, especially if the other symptoms like swelling and lumps accompany black sores, as they could be a medication side effect or the cause of an underlying health condition.

How To Remove Black Spots On The Tongue Naturally?

Natural remedies can be beneficial as they contain specific bioactive components that help relieve the symptoms and prevent these black spots from re-curing. Following are some of the natural alternatives to clear black marks on your tongue: 

  • Baking soda or hydrogen peroxide can help detoxify the taste buds and remove any residues or bacteria in the form of black spots. 
  • Raw fruits and vegetables can also help remove these black dots as they contain natural acids like citrus fruits or pineapple that contain bromelain that fights dead cells and dark spots. 
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and help the body naturally eliminate accumulated toxins. 
  • Herbs like neem can also help fight bacterial infections and destain the taste buds of any residues. 
  • Spices like cinnamon and garlic also have antibacterial and spot-lightening properties that can help remove these spots. 
  • Finally, aloe vera is an excellent option for healing and improving collagen structure within the spots if injuries cause them.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, the emergence of these black spots indicates that your body needs attention and care. Even if it is not severe, you need to pay attention to your health and spare some time daily to notice small changes that could be big in the long run. If you still experience something confusing and require a consultation, connect with our doctors at Your Doctors Online.

What is the reason for black spots on the tongue? Chat with an Online Doctor

FAQs

Are black spots on the tongue bad?

There is a rare chance of something severe; usually, black spots are harmless and can be removed with proper oral hygiene practices. However, it is better to consult a doctor if the spots don’t fade away in a few days or are causing pain, swelling, and the appearance of lumps.

Do black spots on the tongue go away?

Yes, black spots can go away if you brush regularly, use tongue cleaner or scrapper, or use some home remedies. But make sure to discuss with your dentist even if they go away to avoid any future inconvenience.

How long does it take to get rid of the black tongue?

Depending upon the symptoms and the cause, these spots mostly go away in a few days or, in the case of hairy tongue disease, in 1-2 weeks. However, consult with your healthcare provider if they stay a little longer.

What does melanoma on the tongue look like?

Melanoma or cancer on the tongue can be in the form of dark or colorless nodules, usually painless. However, with time they can develop ulcers and erosion.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Mayo Clinic. Leukoplakia
  • Cedars Sinai. Tongue Cancer
  • Reamy BV, Derby R, Bunt CW. Common tongue conditions in primary care. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Mar 1;81(5):627-34. PMID: 20187599.
  • Schlager E, St Claire C, Ashack K, Khachemoune A. Black Hairy Tongue: Predisposing Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2017 Aug;18(4):563-569. doi: 10.1007/s40257-017-0268-y. PMID: 28247090.
  • Gurvits GE, Tan A. Black hairy tongue syndrome. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Aug 21;20(31):10845-50. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i31.10845. PMID: 25152586; PMCID: PMC4138463.

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