We’re used to hearing about – and maybe even experiencing – oral health situations such as cavities, root canals and crowns. But what about black hairy tongue and burning mouth syndrome? Though rare, these are real conditions that can affect your oral health.
Black Hairy Tongue. It sounds awful – and looks kind of gross – but black hairy tongue is typically harmless. Usually the result of a buildup of dead skin cells on the surface of the tongue, the condition can be caused by poor oral hygiene, dry mouth, tobacco use and certain medications. The discoloration isn’t limited to black – it can also be brown, tan, white or even green. The dead cells may cause a strange or metallic taste in the mouth. Most of the time, black hairy tongue goes away with proper hygiene and the elimination of causes such as tobacco. Consult a dentist if these methods don’t help.1
Burning Mouth Syndrome. This affliction is exactly what it sounds like – the feeling that the mouth is burning, scalding or tingling – even though it’s not. Sometimes the pain is intermittent, but for some people, the pain is constant and lasts for years. Most people with burning mouth syndrome experience pain in their tongues, but it can also be in the lips, the roof of the mouth, or throughout the entire mouth. Though treatments vary depending on the person and the severity of the problem, it may help to avoid spicy or acidic foods, alcohol and tobacco products.2
Geographic Tongue. So-named because the condition creates splotches on the tongue that resemble countries on a map, geographic tongue is characterized by smooth, red, irregular patches. Though its appearance can cause some alarm, geographic tongue is not associated with infection or cancer, as many people assume. It can, however, cause discomfort, pain or a burning sensation. If it doesn’t go away on its own, your dentist may prescribe a mouth rinse or recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever.3 Experts have not yet found a cause for geographic tongue.
Should any of these little-known conditions happen to you, don’t be afraid to bring them up with your dentist.