This Is What Really Causes A Hairy Tongue

When iconic singer John Mayer sang about our bodies being wonderlands, we highly doubt he was referring to the array of sometimes odd conditions that can suddenly appear. However, our bodies are wonderlands of functioning limbs, strands upon strands of DNA, and sometimes, a strange condition or two. And the strange one we would like to discuss at the moment is ... the hairy tongue.

What is a hairy tongue? It is almost exactly what it sounds like. According to the Cleveland Clinic, hairy tongue is a condition of the tongue where little bumps called filiform papillae form on the top of the tongue. As the bumps grow, they collect food and bacteria, which provide the color. Hairy tongues are often black in color. Though they can also be green, white, or brown in hue. About 13% of the population will experience a hairy tongue at one point in their lives. And as sci-fi as this condition sounds, hairy tongue is neither harmful nor particularly a reason for worry, but there are causes of this condition to be aware of.

Causes of and treatment for hairy tongue

As stated by Healthline, a hairy tongue is caused by an overgrowth of dead skin cells. When the filiform papillae (FP) on your tongue do not shed, they will continue to grow and collect bacteria and food. Thus giving your tongue the appearance that it has hair growing on it. The length of the filiform papillae is normally around 1mm long. If they do not shed, they can grow up to 18 mm long.

So why do our tongues sometimes cease to shed dead skin cells? Cleveland Clinic suggests poor oral hygiene and/or a diet of soft foods can be the source of hairy tongue. The strange but painless condition can also be a result of excessive consumption of coffee, tea, tobacco, or alcohol. In addition, certain medications, radiation treatment, and dryness in the mouth can also be a trigger.

Our wonderous bodies have certainly been hosts to some pretty strange symptoms. Luckily, in the case of a hairy tongue, you don't need to worry. Cleveland Clinic recommends brushing your tongue with your toothbrush to help get rid of the "hairy" appearance. You can also consider making changes to your diet if you suspect it is the cause of your hairy tongue. In any case, if it doesn't go away after revamping your diet and oral hygiene routines, consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss a new treatment method.