What is hairy tongue (lingua villosa)?

Updated: Feb 20, 2020
  • Author: Marc Zachary Handler, MD; Chief Editor: Jeff Burgess, DDS, MSD  more...
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Answer

Hairy tongue (lingua villosa) is a commonly observed condition of defective desquamation of the filiform papillae that results from a variety of precipitating factors. [1] The condition is most frequently referred to as black hairy tongue (lingua villosa nigra); however, hairy tongue may also appear brown, white, green, pink, or any of a variety of hues depending on the specific etiology and secondary factors (eg, use of colored mouthwashes, breath mints, candies). [2, 3] See the images below:

Brown hairy tongue in a middle-aged woman who drin Brown hairy tongue in a middle-aged woman who drinks coffee. Note how the condition is limited to the mid-dorsal part of the tongue, becoming more prominent toward the posterior part.
This patient is a middle-aged woman who drank coff This patient is a middle-aged woman who drank coffee and smoked cigarettes for many years. Her chief complaint was a tickling sensation in the oral pharynx during swallowing. The slight greenish cast to her tongue was due to the use of a mouthwash immediately prior to her appointment.
Middle-aged woman with a hairy tongue that is brow Middle-aged woman with a hairy tongue that is brown.

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