hairy tongue or oral hairy leukoplakia

Question

A few months ago my dentist told me I have hairy tongue probably caused by cigarette smoking? Is this the same as oral hairy leukoplakia?

Answer

Oral hairy leukoplakia is a condition associated with the Epstein Barr Virus that normally presents on the lateral borders of the tongue. It is actually not "hairy" in appearance, but presents as a white, corrugated, possibly striated looking area on the lateral borders of the tongue. Whereas this condition is not limited to presenting in HIV positive individuals, this is where we see the most cases.

Hairy tongue, by comparison, is an overgrowth of the natural papillae on the tongue, which does cause a "hairy" appearance. Smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages and not brushing your tongue routinely are factors in this presentation.

There is no relationship between oral hairy leukoplakia and hairy tongue.

Take care,

DR