An Ohio man’s tongue turned green and hairy from a rare side effect of smoking cigarettes and taking antibiotics.
A 64-year-old man visited a primary care clinic several weeks after noticing that his tongue was beginning to change color.
The man had completed a course of the antibiotic clindamycin for a gum infection about three weeks before seeing a doctor.
He also reported being a smoker. It is unclear how long he had been smoking, and the case study authors did not indicate whether the condition was specifically caused by smoking, antibiotic use, or a combination of the two. .
However, previous research has shown that smoking can have lasting effects on oral health, including causing plaque and bacterial buildup. Antibiotics, on the other hand, can alter the microbiome of the mouth, causing bacteria to change and accumulate on the tongue.
Doctors diagnosed the man with a hairy tongue. It is a condition characterized by an abnormal coating on the upper surface of the tongue (also called the dorsal area).
A hairy tongue is caused by the accumulation of dead skin on the parts of the tongue that contain the taste buds, known as papillae. The papillae then become longer than normal and the tongue appears hairy.
It also traps other substances such as bacteria and yeast.
It is usually asymptomatic, but can cause a burning sensation on the tongue. This is due to bacteria and yeast that have accumulated on the surface of the tongue.
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About 13% of Americans are affected, according to the American Academy of Oral Medicine (AAOM).
A hairy tongue can occur at any age, but it is most common in older people. It is also seen more often in men than in women.
The discoloration is usually black, but the tongue may also be brown, yellow, or green.
Smoking has long been shown to cause the buildup of bacteria and plaque and negatively impact oral health.
Antibiotics similar to those the patient was taking can also cause new bacteria to form in the mouth, which can build up and cause a hairy tongue.
Risk factors include smoking, dehydration, poor oral hygiene, and antibiotics, according to the case study authors.
Patients who have had hairy tongue in the past are more likely to develop it again in the future.
This condition is relatively harmless and usually temporary.
Doctors advised the man to gently scrub the surface of his tongue with a toothbrush four times a day. I also received advice on how to quit smoking.
The AAOM recommends practicing good oral hygiene to prevent a hairy tongue.
This means brushing the top of your tongue with a toothbrush or using a tongue scraper.
After 6 months, the patient’s tongue returned to normal despite continued smoking.
A case study was published in a journal. New England Journal of Medicine.