Tongue diseases

There Are Black Spots on My Tongue

Mary Smith
By Mary Smith. May 17, 2022
There Are Black Spots on My Tongue

The tongue is an organ of the human body at the beginning of the digestive system. It is not only important for eating. It is very important for communication, it helps maintain oral health, it provides the ability to taste and much more. Our tongue is also an important indicator in our overall health, as is the state of the mouth in general. For this reason, if we start to see it has turned black, it is understandable we will be worried.

At oneHOWTO, we explain why a tongue can start to develop black spots. We look at the reasons why there are black spots on our tongue and what treatment options we have available.

You may also be interested in: What Causes Black Gum Lines
  1. Alterations in pigmentation
  2. Reactions to food or medication
  3. Black hairy tongue syndrome (BHT)
  4. tongue lesions
  5. Xerostomia
  6. Oral cancer
  7. Leukoplakia

Alterations in pigmentation

If you wonder why black spots appear in the mouth, you should know that sometimes they are completely harmless. This is the case when the dark tone is the result of hyperpigmentation, i.e. a higher concentration of the pigments that give it its natural color (pigments similar to those that give color to the skin or hair).

In most cases, the causes of this anomaly have a genetic origin. Some chemotherapy treatments can also trigger it, disappearing naturally once the treatment is finished. The possible symptoms of chemotherapy should already be discussed in detail with your doctor. Although hyperpigmentation in the tongue does not pose any health risk, it is still important to have a doctor diagnose the condition in case the black spots on the tongue are due to something else.

There Are Black Spots on My Tongue - Alterations in pigmentation

Reactions to food or medication

Brown or black spots may be due to external factors. Some foods such as coffee, tea or wine when ingested with sufficient frequency and in considerable quantities, can cause their intense color to staining the tongue itself. This is similar to the tarnishing effects they can affect have on the natural color of tooth enamel.

For this reason, we must remember the importance of proper oral hygiene. This includes not only brushing the teeth, but also brushing the tongue with suitable brushes that do not cause damage it. This helps to avoid the accumulation of bacteria and substances that can end up altering its color.

Some medications can also be behind the appearance of black spots on the tongue. Certain chemical compounds present in some drugs can cause these color changes that gradually disappear when you stop taking them. Examples include bismuth subsalicylate (sold under brand names such as Pepto-Bismol).

If you need tips to help you maintain good oral hygiene, take a look at our article on how to get rid of white tongue.

Black hairy tongue syndrome (BHT)

Although its appearance can be alarming, black hairy tongue syndrome is generally a temporary and harmless change in the color and texture of the tongue, as pointed out by the American Mayo Clinic[1] . The tongue has extensive, scaly dark spots that look like small hairs, hence the name.

In reality, they are dead cells that accumulate in the taste buds, altering their functioning and trapping bacteria and substances from food. It is this bacteria which end up causing that dark color in the area. Good hygiene that includes brushing the teeth and tongue twice a day is usually the solution to the problem. If it persists, it requires consultation with a specialist.

There Are Black Spots on My Tongue - Black hairy tongue syndrome (BHT)

tongue lesions

If you detect a black spot on the tongue, try to remember if you have injured it at all. A slight involuntary bite when chewing, a small cut with some sharp food or a spiky foreign object create tiny wounds that make the affected area dark. This is because it is actually a bruise that comes out the same as it would anywhere else on the body after a trauma or injury. As with other bruises, it should disappear incrementally over time. In fact, it should be quicker than other areas of the body as the mouth tends to heal more quickly.


Xerostomia (more commonly known as dry mouth) is a pathology that affects the salivary glands. It causes a decrease in the normal production of saliva that can result in various problems, often related to the swallowing of food. It mainly affects older people, although it can also be caused by certain medications or other conditions.

Although rare, dry mouth can trigger the appearance of black spots on the tongue as the taste buds are affected by low salivation. Learn more with our article on how to treat dry mouth.

Oral cancer

In most cases black spots on the tongue are not dangerous. However, it is always possible they could be a symptom of the appearance of malignant tumors that affect the organ. This stresses the importance of going to the doctor to diagnose their cause. This is especially important if, in addition to the color change, there are other symptoms such as inflammation in the area or discomfort when chewing and swallowing food.

Learn more with our article on the first symptoms of oral cancer.

There Are Black Spots on My Tongue - Oral cancer


Leukoplakia is a lesion that can appear in different parts of the mouth such as the gums, the inner area of the cheek and on the tongue. The spots it causes are usually white, but also grayish. They rarely become so dark they are black. It is believed they are the result of irritation in the affected area that could be related to the consumption of tobacco or other irritating substances.

In many cases, brushing and eliminating the factors that cause them should make them disappear. It should be noted they can also be precancerous lesions. This is another reason we need to seek medical advice if we see black spots on our tongue.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to There Are Black Spots on My Tongue, we recommend you visit our Family health category.

  1. Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Black hairy tongue - Symptoms and causes. Retrieved from:
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There Are Black Spots on My Tongue