Hairy Tongue

Hairy tongue is an elongation and hypertrophy of filiform papillae. It should not be confused with oral hairy leukoplakia, a viral condition seen in immunocompromised patients. It is associated with tobacco use, poor oral hygiene, and antibiotic use.


  • Most patients are asymptomatic.
  • Some patients may experience halitosis or altered taste.

Preventive Measures

  • Improves with avoidance of tobacco, mouthwashes, and antibiotics.
  • Regular tongue brushing with soft toothbrush or tongue scraper may help.

Hairy Tongue

Brad Neville, DDS
Brad Neville, DDS


Greenspan D, Greenspan JS. Significance of oral hairy leukoplakia. Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology. 1992;73(2):151-4.

Reamy BV, Derby R, Bunt CW. Common tongue conditions in primary care. American Family Physician. 2010;81(5):627-634.