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Hairy tongue? Cause and treatment of a hairy tongue!

Hairy tongue? Cause and treatment of a hairy tongue!

Created: August 25, 2022 | Updated: January 19, 2023

Do you sometimes have a brownish tongue? Does it seem as if little hairs are growing on your tongue? Then you may be suffering from a hair tongue. This condition is not dangerous, but it can cause embarrassment or discomfort. In this article we explain what a hairy tongue is and what you can do to get rid of it. Should you suffer from a geographic tongue, it is useful to read more about it here.

What is a hairy tongue?

Hairy tongue, also known as Lingua villosa, is a condition of the tongue. Contrary to what the name suggests, no hairs grow on the tongue. In fact, these are taste buds that grow thicker and longer. Normally, the top layer of tongue cells wears off regularly through eating, drinking or chemical reactions with saliva. These tongue cells are replaced fairly quickly by the tongue mucosa. When there is a disturbance in the balance between degradation and production of the tongue cells, this can lead to a thickening of the tongue mucosa. Over time, this starts to look like a mash or hairy tongue.

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What does a hairy tongue look like?

You can recognise Lingua villosa by the coloured coat that lies on the tongue. This colour is caused by bacteria accumulating in the tongue lining and converting proteins. The brown, white or black colour is produced by mixing the transformation products of these proteins with pigments from foodstuffs.

Black hairy tongue

The tongue will become darker the longer you live with the condition. This can eventually lead to a black hairy tongue. Dark foods such as coffee and smoking can also contribute to a black colour.

Brown hairy tongue

Most people who suffer from Lingua villosa have a brown hairy tongue. The brown colour may darken over time.

White hairy tongue

In some cases, Lingua villosa manifests itself as a white or light coloured furry tongue. We then speak of a white hairy tongue. This can occur, for example, if you eat mainly light-coloured foods such as milk or cheese. Some fungi can also be responsible for a white colour.

Symptoms of a hair tongue

The most important symptom of Lingua villosa is of course the hairy-looking mash on the tongue. You may also experience foul-smelling breath, a burning or tingling sensation on the tongue and change in taste.

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What causes a black hairy tongue?


One of the most common causes of a black hairy tongue is smoking. Smoking causes the tongue cells to wear down faster. In addition, nicotine causes the typical black deposit on the tongue.

Poor oral hygiene and a dehydrated mouth

Lingua villosa can also be caused by poor oral hygiene, as well as by a dehydrated mouth. The reason for this is very simple: bacteria. It is they who are responsible for that brown layer and they unfortunately survive better in a dry mouth.

Aggressive Ingredients

Aggressive ingredients in some mouthwashes and toothpastes, such as chlorhexidine, can disrupt oral flora. This provides the perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria that can cause a black hairy tongue.


Medicines can sometimes cause brown deposits on the tongue. This usually disappears when the antibiotic treatment is discontinued.

Coffee and alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol can dry out and irritate the tongue lining. Bacteria then have free rein.


Finally, a fungal infection on the tongue can also cause Lingua villosa. The immune system is then weakened, allowing bacteria in the oral cavity free rein.

Treatment of hairy tongue

Fortunately a black hairy tongue is easy to treat. Good oral hygiene will go a long way. Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes and do not forget to brush your tongue as well. At we offer a wide range of tongue cleaners, toothpaste and toothbrushes!
Using mouthwash can also bring relief. Please make sure that the mouthwash does not contain any aggressive ingredients. Find our range of safe mouthwashes here.

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Frequently asked questions

A hairy tongue is a condition of the tongue where the tongue lining thickens and a brown to black layer appears on the tongue.

The best remedy for a hairy tongue is good oral hygiene! Brush your teeth often enough, scrape your tongue, try not to smoke and avoid drinking too much alcohol and coffee.

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