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The feeling of having hair in the mouth is usually associated with an infection of the papillae on the tongue or due to a keratotic growth in the mouth as seen in certain conditions. There are recorded instances of actual hair growth in the mouth, however they are extremely rare and unlikely to occur in most cases.

The most common causes responsible for a hair like sensation inside the mouth are as follows.

An Overgrowth Of Filiform Papillae

Our tongue has different types of papillae coating the tongue. The most numerous are the filiform papillae. These cover the maximum surface area of the tongue and are individually small and prickly as compared to other papillae. Sometimes these filiform papillae do not shed old dead cells as they grow and can thus cause a feeling of having hair in the mouth.

The growth may appear whitish in mouth and can be confused with a white coating as seen in conditions like oral thrush. This condition is harmless and all that requires to be done is for a tongue scraper to be used for a couple of days so that the dead cells can be physically removed from the surface of the tongue and return to normal.

Black Hairy Tongue

A condition which is referred to as a "black hairy tongue" can result due to the accumulation of bacteria and fungus below the surface of these papillae.

Clinically this condition appears like there has been hair growth over the dorsal surface of the tongue, however again in actuality it is just the filiform papillae that have grown beyond their normal size and number.

The black color is attributed to the various pigments present in our food that can get caught in the papillae, thus "Black" Hairy Tongue can also be yellowish or brownish or any other color really.

Keratotic Lesions

Certain conditions in which there is an overgrowth of keratin producing cells inside the oral mucosa can also mimic a hair like feeling. These conditions include Candidiasis, Leukoplakia, Frictional keratosis and even in some cases auto immune conditions like Lichen Planus.

The pathology behind these conditions can be varied, however they share similar risk factors of heavy smoking, repeated friction or trauma at a particular spot inside the mouth or a defect in the immune system.

It is important to remove these all these risk factors as often there will be no conclusive diagnosis for the cause of the keratotic patch. Once the offending risk factor has been removed, this patch should resolve on its own and return to normal.

Other symptoms associated with these lesions:

  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • Halitosis
  • Altered Taste sensation
  • Nausea

While none of the above conditions are particularly serious, they can cause a significant amount of inconvenience to the person suffering from them. An effort to remove the keratotic patch with a tongue scraper can made, however if it persists beyond a week or so of trying then taking a professional opinion is the best thing to do.

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