How can I manage and prevent black hairy tongue?

Brushing your tongue with a toothbrush or using a tongue scraper can remove the papillae and the food debris that might be caught in them. Other oral hygiene procedures, like brushing and flossing your teeth and regularly visiting a dentist, will also help.

Other ways of controlling black hairy tongue also are a matter of attacking the problem at its source:

  • Cut back on coffee, tea, tobacco or alcohol.
  • Change your diet.
  • Change your mouthwash – use one that doesn’t use peroxide or another oxidizing agent.
  • If you or your doctor suspects that a medication is causing black hairy tongue, talk to your doctor about changing the medication.

If none of that works, how is black hairy tongue treated?

Black hairy tongue that persists after an improvement in oral hygiene and other attempts at managing it can be treated with antifungal medications, mouthwash or retinoids, which are drugs related to vitamin A.

Surgical treatment using a laser or electrical current is an option when nothing else has solved the problem.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/07/2018.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy