I woke up this morning feeling okay. But when I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror I noticed something disturbing. In fact, it was downright scary.
My tongue had turned black!
It looked like I had a black eye but inside my mouth. But nobody had punched me in the tongue recently so I started to panic. What the hell was wrong with me? Is this the first stages of some hideous disease?
I ran to my computer for answers. While the computer was warming up my imagination ran wild. All sorts of frightening scenarios danced through my head. Would I lose my tongue like a victim of gangrene looses a leg? Did something literally crawl into my mouth and die? I could not open Firefox fast enough once the computer came on.
I typed in “black tongue” into Google. The first entry that came up was from Wikipedia – Black hairy tongue – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
“Black hairy tongue (in Latin, lingua villosa nigra) is the lengthening of papillae which are bumps on the surface of the tongue. Usually the ends of the papillae get rubbed away by food but sometimes they grow much longer than normal, making the tongue look furry. The extra tissue can get stained by food or tobacco and become yellowish brown or black. Even though it may appear alarming, black hairy tongue itself is harmless.”
Harmless! Thank God. I learned a little something & I’m not going to die…today. What a weird thing the tongue is, eh? Papillae are the nipple-like structures that line the tongue. Some of them contain taste buds. Okay, enough science. Time to clean my tongue. Wikipedia suggested using a toothbrush. That was fine for the front part of the tongue, but sticking the toothbrush way back in my mouth almost caused me to throw up.
I was reminded of a scene from Steve Martin’s hilarious 1982 comedy called Dead Mean Don’t Wear Plaid. Using footage from classic noir films and some clever editing, Mr. Martin seemingly co-starred with the likes of Bogart, Grant & other Hollywood legends. In one scene Ingrid Bergman, courtesy of footage from Notorious, slips Martin’s character a “mickey”. While drugged up, Martin’s character decides it’s a good idea to shave his tongue.
Once I was assured of my safety, my panic turned into annoyance. What had caused this? Again, Wikipedia came to the rescue: “A similar condition can occur within 24 hours after taking Pepto-Bismol, especially chewable tablets.” Bingo. I had some nasty nachos last night and took a couple of Pepto tablets. How about a warning Pepto-Bismol? Nowhere on your packaging do you warn anyone about this phenomena. All it would take is a quick addition to the current warning. Something along the lines of, “WARNING: Taking these chewable tablets might make your tongue look like a worn out shoe.”
I think I’m going to be okay. Panic is not a great way to start a Tuesday. The best advice I could give myself was to stay calm & check the internet. Oh, and because they were so helpful, I donated 5 bucks to Wikipedia. Thanks for the info!