What Does It Mean When Your Tongue Is Black?


The fact that it’s the responsibility of dentists to oversee the health of our teeth is something we already know. However, the reality is that our dentists at Sacramento River Dental Group dental office are responsible for a lot more than just your teeth.

Our dental team is committed to protecting your overall health, and your tongue is one area that’s of particular interest to our dentists. You might be surprised to learn that your tongue can say a lot about your overall health and can show early warning signs of certain serious conditions affecting health.

Table of Contents

What Do We Look For?

Our dentists and dental hygienists will take a closer look at your tongue when you come in for your bi-annual dental checkups. You are likely wondering exactly what it is that we are looking for.

The first thing our dental team will look for is any changes in the texture of your tongue since your last appointment, paying special attention to any lumps or bumps. Next, we will look for any discoloration of the tongue.

A healthy tongue is pink and ideally covered in tiny bumps that are referred to as papillae. If the tongue is unhealthy or may be showing signs of a bigger problem, it may have one or more of the following:

1. Black and Hairy

If you look into the mirror and see a black, hairy tongue, you will most likely panic. But, no matter how gross and scary this may seem, odds are that a black, hairy tongue is not something you should fear and is usually temporary.

It may also be helpful to know that the hairy appearance is not actually hair. It is usually an accumulation of dead skin cells on your papillae that causes the usually tiny bumps to take on a long, stringy appearance.

Causes: Excessive use of alcohol, changes in the number of bacteria or yeast in the mouth, dry mouth, tobacco use, or poor oral hygiene.

Symptoms: Furry or hairy appearance, metallic taste or change in taste, bad breath, green, brown, yellow, or black coloration.

2. A Sore, Bumpy Tongue

All tongues naturally have a bumpy texture, and not all bumps are worrisome. However, if a new bump appears and lasts longer than 2 weeks, or is accompanied by soreness or pain, it may be time to visit our Sacramento River Dental Group dental office.

A bump or lump that does not go away may be an early warning sign of oral cancer and should be checked out before it’s too late.

Causes: While just about anybody can develop oral cancer, there are certain things that increase the risk, which include HPV, too much sun on the lips without protection, alcohol, and tobacco use.

Symptoms: Bumps, lumps, or painful sores that don’t go away, changes in voice, numbness of the tongue, difficulty swallowing or chewing, chronic bad breath.

3. Ridges

Changes in the texture of your tongue may be concerning initially, but a scalloped appearance or ridges on the tongue’s edges are typically harmless.

Causes: Smoking, sleep apnea, pushing the tongue against the teeth either during periods of stress or even while sleeping, teeth grinding, nutritional deficiencies such as iron, vitamin B-12, niacin, or riboflavin.

Symptoms: Indents, ripples, ridges, or scalloped edges on the sides of the tongue.

4. White Spots

If your tongue appears to be coated in white spots, you are likely experiencing leukoplakia or oral thrush. Leukoplakia is a result of alcohol use or tobacco use while oral thrush is an infection that’s caused by Candida yeast. Leukoplakia can sometimes develop into oral cancer.

Causes: Alcohol use, tobacco use, poor oral hygiene, mouth breathing, dry mouth, dehydration.

Symptoms: White spots or patches or a white coating on the tongue. The white coating or spots can appear either on the whole tongue or just in select patches.

We always recommend keeping a close eye on the health of your tongue in between visits. If you notice any changes in color or texture or develop sores, contact our Sacramento River Dental Group dental office as soon as you can.

Privacy Policy

Hispanic or Latino

A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

American Indian or Alaska Native (Not Hispanic or Latino)

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment.

Asian (Not Hispanic or Latino)

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian Subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Black or African American (Not Hispanic or Latino)

A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (Not Hispanic or Latino)

A person having origins in any of the peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

White (Not Hispanic or Latino)

A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

Two or More Races (Not Hispanic or Latino)

Persons who identify with two or more race/ethnic categories named above.

Privacy Policy

Sacramento River Dental Group – Candidate Privacy Notice

Sacramento River Dental Group is committed to respecting your online privacy and recognizes your need for appropriate protection and management of any personally identifiable information (“Personal Information”) you share with us.

Sacramento River Dental Group is a “data controller”. This means that we are responsible for deciding how we hold and use personal information about you. This privacy notice makes you aware of how and why your personal data will be used, namely for the purposes of the Sacramento River Dental Group employment recruitment process, and how long it will usually be retained.

Data protection principles

We will comply with data protection law and principles, which means that your data will be:

  • Used lawfully, fairly, and in a transparent way.
  • Collected only for valid purposes that we have clearly explained to you and not used in any way that is incompatible with those purposes.
  • Relevant to the purposes we have told you about and limited only to those purposes.
  • Accurate and kept up to date.
  • Kept only as long as necessary for the purposes we have told you about.
  • Kept securely.

The kind of information we hold about you

In connection with your application for work with us, we will collect, store, and use the following categories of personal information about you:

  • The information you have provided to us in your curriculum vitae and cover letter.
  • The information you have provided on our application form, including name, title, address, telephone number, personal email address, employment history, and qualifications.
  • Any information you provide to us during an interview.

How is your personal information collected?

We collect personal information about candidates from the following sources:

  • You, the candidate.
  • Recruitment agencies and vendors we have agreed on terms in place with
  • Professional networking profile
  • Employees and others who refer you to us

How we will use information about you?

We will use the personal information we collect about you to:

  • Assess your skills, qualifications, and suitability for the role.
  • Carry out background and reference checks, where applicable.
  • Communicate with you about the recruitment process.
  • Keep records related to our hiring processes.
  • Comply with legal or regulatory requirements.
  • We also need to process your personal information to decide whether to enter into a contract of employment with you.

Having received your CV, cover letter, and/or your application form, we will then process that information to decide whether you meet the basic requirements to be screened by our in-house recruitment team for the role. If you do, we will decide whether your application is strong enough to invite you for an interview, be it by telephone, in person, or by other electronic means. If we decide to engage you for an interview, we will use the information you provide to us at the interview to decide whether to offer you the role. If we decide to offer you the role, we will then take up references before confirming your appointment.

If you fail to provide personal information

If you fail to provide information when requested, which is necessary for us to consider your application (such as evidence of qualifications or work history), we will not be able to process your application successfully and we will not be able to take your application further.

Automated decision-making

You will not be subject to decisions that will have a significant impact on you based solely on automated decision-making.

Data sharing With third parties

  • We will only share your personal information with the following third parties for the purposes of processing your application; this may involve sharing your information with other companies within our own group if we consider they may have other relevant vacancies and only if you consent to such sharing
  • All our third-party service providers and other entities in the group are required to take appropriate security measures to protect your personal information in line with our policies. We do not allow our third-party service providers to use your personal data for their own purposes. We only permit them to process your personal data for specified purposes and in accordance with our instructions.

Data security

We have put in place appropriate security measures to prevent your personal information from being accidentally lost, used, or accessed in an unauthorized way, altered, or disclosed. In addition, we limit access to your personal information to those employees, agents, contractors, and other third parties who have a business need-to-know. They will only process your personal information on our instructions and they are subject to a duty of confidentiality.

We have put in place procedures to deal with any suspected data security breach and will notify you and any applicable regulator of a suspected breach where we are legally required to do so.

Data retention (how long will you use my information for)

  • We will retain your personal information for a period of 2 years after we have communicated to you our decision about whether to appoint you to the role. We will retain your personal information so that we can make you aware of any suitable alternative roles that arise during this period.
  • We further retain your personal information for that period so that we can show, in the event of a legal claim, that we have not discriminated against candidates on prohibited grounds and that we have conducted the recruitment exercise in a fair and transparent way. After this period, we will securely destroy your personal information in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.
  • If you would prefer that we did not retain your personal information, you can notify us at any time and we will delete your personal information.

Rights of access, correction, erasure, and restriction

Under certain circumstances, by law, you have the right to:

  • Request access to your personal information (commonly known as a “data subject access request”). This enables you to receive a copy of the personal information we hold about you and to check that we are lawfully processing it.
  • Request correction of the personal information that we hold about you. This enables you to have any incomplete or inaccurate information we hold about you corrected.
  • Request erasure of your personal information. This enables you to ask us to delete or remove personal information where there is no good reason for us to continue to process it. You also have the right to ask us to delete or remove your personal information where you have exercised your right to object to processing (see below).
  • Object to processing of your personal information where we are relying on a legitimate interest (or those of a third party) and there is something about your particular situation which makes you want to object to processing on this ground. You also have the right to object to where we are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes.
  • Request the restriction of processing of your personal information. This enables you to ask us to suspend the processing of personal information about you, for example, if you want us to establish its accuracy or the reason for processing it.

Right to withdraw consent

When you applied for this role, you provided consent to us processing your personal information for the purposes of the recruitment exercise. You have the right to withdraw your consent for processing for that purpose at any time.

To withdraw your consent, please contact the Recruitment Manager. Once we have received notification that you have withdrawn your consent, we will no longer process your application, and, subject to our policies, we will dispose of your personal data securely.

Data protection officer

We have appointed a data protection officer (DPO) to oversee compliance with this privacy notice. If you have any questions about this privacy notice or how we handle your personal information, please contact the DPO by email, at