Black Patches on the Tongue: Causes, Bad Effects and Treatment

This statement might sound strange, but it’s true: we all have certain expectations about how our mouth, teeth or tongue should look. When something looks different, it can be deeply uncomfortable, disturbing, and indicative of a more significant problem.

Black patches on the tongue are one such example. Your tongue is not supposed to have black patches, but they can happen. Fortunately, there are perfectly understandable reasons for black patches on the tongue. With proper care, you can immediately have these issues addressed. 

What are Black Patches on the Tongue?

In most cases, changes in the appearance of your tastebuds are responsible for black patches on your tongue. Tastebuds are usually visible to the human eye. They’re the little bumps on the surface of your tongue. If they are stained, your taste buds may appear black and clumped together. This is the most common reason your tongue may appear to have black spots.

Causes of Black Patches on the Tongue

Black patches on the tongue are unquestionably concerning. But a black patch on your tongue may have a perfectly reasonable cause, such as something you ate, drank, or smoked. Alternatively, black patches on the tongue could be a sign of something more serious.

Some of the causes of black patches on the tongue include:

Drinking a lot of coffee or tea or alcohol

The tannins in coffee, tea or alcohol are responsible for staining your teeth and gums. In some cases, they can also cause black patches on the tongue. However, if you drink many of these drinks, temporarily stopping that activity may result in the patches fading away. 

Tobacco use

The impacts of tobacco and how it stains your tongue and gums are well-documented. In some cases, black patches on a tongue can come from smoking.

Certain medication

Studies have found that some medications, including antibiotics, can turn your tongue black. This effect is usually temporary, but you should speak with your doctor if you notice this side effect occurring. 

Some mouthwashes

Peroxide is a common substance in some mouthwashes that can stain certain body parts. In some cases, drinking mouthwashes with peroxide can damage the tongue and cause black patches to emerge. 

Tongue Cancer

Unfortunately, the emergence of black patches on your tongue can sometimes indicate cancer. Fortunately, this is relatively rare. However, if you have black patches that don’t go away with routine care or changes in diet, you should speak with your doctor or dentist immediately. 

Adverse Effects of Black Patches on the Tongue

In addition to being unsightly, a black patch on your tongue can lead to many negative physical impacts, including:

Bad breath

In some cases, bacteria can be a cause or effect of black patches. However, these bacteria can cause many other dental problems, including bad breath

Change in the way food tastes

Black patches often come with changes or damage to your tastebuds. As such, food and drinks can taste different and be much more unpleasant. 

Burning sensations

Black patches on a tongue can often cause a variety of other impacts, including a tingling or burning sensation. This is often tied to the cause of the black patches. By addressing the root cause, you can usually stop the burning sensation. 


The bacteria that causes black tongue can often also cause nausea. Alternatively, it is possible that a third cause — like drinking too much coffee or alcohol — is tied to nausea. 

Treatment Options For Black Patches On The Tongue

Once you have identified the cause of a black patch on the tongue, you can begin treatment.

Scrapping Or Brushing The Tongue

If the black patches have appeared as a result of food, drink or another staining, training your tongue with a physical cleaning effort may remove these black patches. 

Cutting Out Or Limited Your Intake of Alcohol, Coffee, Or Tea

Certain drinks can change the appearance of your tastebuds and result in black patches on the tongue. However, if you stop consuming these substances — or at least consume less of them — you may be able to reduce or remove the black spots. 

Stop Using Mouthwashes That Contain Peroxide

Peroxide reacts with your tastebuds and tongue in a way that can turn your tongue black. If you have black patches on your tongue and are using mouthwashes that contain peroxide, you should stop immediately. This may resolve any issues on your tongue that you continue to face. 

Regular Dental Check-Ups

Regular dental check-ups can help you identify the source of black patches on your tongue and get the treatment you need. Regular check-ups can also help you engage in proper dental hygiene. Doing so will keep your mouth clean and improve your oral health. 

Healthy Tongue, Healthy Life

A black patch on the tongue can be very concerning, but in many cases, there are perfectly normal reasons for developing such a black patch. Unfortunately, sometimes, the reason for a black patch can be indicative of something more serious. Other times, with proper care, you can immediately eliminate this issue.

Regardless of the reason, you should have any black patch treated immediately. If you are looking for a top-notch dentist, contact Bellevue Hill Dental to book an appointment and learn more about how we can help you address your mouth, dental or tongue problems. 

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