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Why Are There Black Spots on My Tongue?


Noticing black spots or discoloration on your tongue can be alarming, but in many cases, it is not a serious issue. There are several potential causes for these tongue irregularities, ranging from harmless to more concerning.

Common Causes of Black Spots on the Tongue

Food and Drink Stains

Certain foods and beverages can temporarily stain or discolor the tongue. Coffee, tea, red wine, and foods with strong pigments like blueberries can leave behind dark spots or a coated appearance on the tongue’s surface.

Hairy Tongue (Black Hairy Tongue)

A condition called “black hairy tongue” can cause the tongue to appear discolored and develop hair-like projections. This is usually harmless and is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria or fungi, often due to poor oral hygiene or the use of certain medications.

Oral Thrush (Candidiasis)

Oral thrush, a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida, can lead to black spots or a discolored tongue. This condition is more common in individuals with weakened immune systems or those taking certain medications.

Tongue Pigmentation

Some people may naturally have darker pigmentation on their tongues, particularly towards the back of the tongue. This is often harmless and can be a normal variation in tongue color.

When to Seek Medical Attention

While black spots on the tongue are often benign, there are instances when you should consult a healthcare professional:

  • If the discoloration is accompanied by pain, swelling, or difficulty swallowing
  • If the spots or discoloration persist for an extended period (more than two weeks)
  • If you have other concerning symptoms like fever, fatigue, or unexplained weight loss

Your healthcare provider can perform an examination, identify the underlying cause, and recommend appropriate treatment or management options.

Maintaining Oral Hygiene

Good oral hygiene practices can help prevent or reduce the occurrence of black spots on the tongue. Brush your tongue gently with a toothbrush or tongue scraper, and maintain regular dental check-ups and cleanings. Staying hydrated and avoiding habits like smoking can also contribute to a healthier tongue and overall oral health.


Black spots or discoloration on the tongue can have various causes, ranging from harmless stains to more serious conditions. By understanding the potential reasons and being attentive to any accompanying symptoms, you can determine when it is appropriate to seek medical advice. Maintaining good oral hygiene and addressing any underlying issues can help promote a healthy tongue and alleviate concerns about black spots or pigmentation.

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