Have you ever had that uncomfortable furry feeling in your tongue, like your tongue was sprouting hair? It’s not a great feeling, no doubt. The tongue never quite feels right. That’s when you start noticing every tiny movement of the tongue in the mouth. It needlessly sticks on the roof of the mouth and makes a smacking sound when you are talking. It is during these moments that the people who are accustomed to speaking a lot find peace in quiet. Woe to them if the whole world gets to notice their furry tongue.
A hairy tongue is usually as a result of a colony of bacteria or yeast in the mouth. Yes, a colony. That certainly sent a chill down some spines. You might want to know that a lot of bacteria naturally reside in our mouths. However, they get a bit too much in this case. The microorganisms inhabit and fill the tongue papillae. The tongue papillae are the very little hills that run the surface of the mouth. The papillae constantly grow while getting shed off at the same time. By covering the papillae, the micro-organisms block them, preventing them from shedding off. They consequently increase in length sometimes reaching about fifteen times their normal length. Over time, food pigments in addition to bacteria and fungi get attached to the papillae. These eventually change the color of the tongue from its usual color to black, brown, green or yellow.
What exactly might lead to a hairy tongue? Lifestyle habits are a major contributing factor. Here are a few causes:
Poor oral hygiene
Failure to often brush your tongue results in accumulation of dead cells on its surface. The accumulation eventually leads to a furry tongue.
Medications containing bismuth
Medications such as Pepto-Bismol that contain bismuth tend to lead to a hairy tongue. The bismuth combines with trace amounts of sulfur in the saliva leading to the formation of a black-colored substance, bismuth sulfide, on the tongue. Although it might last several days, the effect on the tongue is however harmless.
Saliva helps in cleaning up the tongue. It carries with it some of the bacteria away from the tongue ensuring a normal bacteria population in the mouth. However, lack of enough saliva could lead to more bacteria population that might lead to a hairy tongue.
Consuming a lot of beverages
Drinking a lot of tea and coffee stains the tongue giving it a dark color or green color as is the case with green tea
Certain antibiotics may interfere with the normal conditions in the mouth resulting in a proliferation of bacteria in the mouth which could lead to a hairy tongue.
Chronic irritation due to smoking upsets the balance between shedding of the papillae and its formation. This causes the dead cells to accumulate leading to a coated tongue that inevitably causes hairy tongue.
So, how do you go about fixing this problem?
Good oral hygiene
Brush your teeth twice a day, and the tongue too. Brush gently. A tongue scraper can be used to great effect here since it is more effective at cleaning the tongue surface.
Taking a lot of water all through the day aids is a big step in keeping the mouth clean.
Quit or reduce smoking
Roughages scrub the tongue through attrition thereby aiding in cleaning it as well as removing bacteria and thrush.
Visit the dentist
If the hairy feeling further persists, visit your dentist. Usually, antifungal drugs, antibiotics or tretinoin will clear off the microorganisms. In some serious cases, the papilla is surgically removed using either laser or electrosurgery.
It will encourage you to know that a furry tongue is not a reason to be alarmed. It is usually a harmless condition that is easy and quick to manage. Maintaining good oral hygiene is a sure-fire means to avoid this problem. Remember to brush your tongue. It is as important as the teeth. If you do this and you still get it, visit the dentist. A few prescriptions can take your tongue to its normal bright red color.