What is a brown tongue a symptom of?


According to the Mayo Clininc, a brown tongue is a symptom of a harmless condition commonly known as coated tongue or black hairy tongue. Although it is often difficult to determine the root cause of coated tongue, it results from poor oral hygiene, irritation from drinking hot beverages, consumption of a soft diet, tobacco use or changes in the normal flora of your mouth after antibiotic use.

The American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology defines coated or hairy tongue as a harmless condition in which the natural layer of dead keratin cells on your tongue that are normally scraped off and swallowed during eating accumulate either due to a lack of abrasion or excess production of the cells. The resulting keratin buildup creates a coated or hairy appearance on the tongue. The brown coloration occurs when normal bacteria of the mouth accumulate on the dead keratin cells, releasing pigments as they grow. According to the Mayo Clinic, the color of the tongue appears black, brown, tan, green, yellow or white.

The Mayo Clinic explains that symptoms sometimes accompanying a coated tongue include a gagging or tickling sensation, bad breath, and an altered sense of taste. See a doctor only if the condition does not improve with twice-daily brushing of the teeth and tongue. The AAOMP reminds sufferers that the condition is not contagious, and one of the best treatments is regular use of a tongue scraper.

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