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Tongue Problem Basics

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What Causes Black Hairy Tongue?

Though troubling in appearance, a black, hairy tongue is typically nothing serious. The small bumps on the surface of your tongue, called papillae, grow throughout your lifetime. In some people, the papillae become excessively long, rather than being worn down by daily activities. That makes them more likely to harbor bacteria. When these bacteria grow, they may look dark or black and the overgrown papillae appear hair-like.

This condition is not common and is most likely to occur in people who do not practice good dental hygiene. People who are on antibiotics or receiving chemotherapy and people with diabetes may be more likely to have a black hairy tongue.

What Causes a Sore or Bumpy Tongue?

There are many things that can make your tongue to become sore or cause painful bumps to form, including:

  • Trauma. Accidentally biting your tongue or scalding it on something straight out of the oven can result in a sore tongue until the damage heals. Grinding or clenching the teeth can also irritate the sides of the tongue and cause it to become painful.
  • Smoking.Smoking excessively can irritate your tongue and make it sore.
  • Canker sores. Many people will develop these mouth ulcers on the tongue eventually. The cause is unknown, although they can be worse during periods of heightened stress.
  • Burning tongue syndrome. Some postmenopausal women develop this syndrome, which makes the tongue feel as if it has been burned.
  • Enlarged papillae. If one or more of your taste buds becomes inflamed or irritated, it can swell and form a painful bump on your tongue.
  • Certain medical conditions. Medical conditions, including diabetes and anemia, can have a sore tongue as a symptom.
  • Oral cancer. Though most sore tongues are nothing to worry about, you should consult a doctor if you have a lump or sore on your tongue that doesn't go away within a week or two. Many oral cancers don't hurt in the early stages, so don't assume a lack of pain means nothing is wrong.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Steve Drescher, DDS on April 14, 2013
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How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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