bad taste in the mouth

Is it normal to have a metallic taste in your mouth? There are a number of reasons why different tastes can pop up from time to time. But a metallic or metal taste may have various reasons behind it. For instance, perhaps you have a metallic taste in your mouth during pregnancy and need to know whether it’s totally normal or something to get stressed out about.

Understanding the causes behind taste bud or flavor changes will better equip you to treat or manage them. As well as give you warning signs of when it’s time to go ahead and see your dentist or medical provider.

What Causes A Metallic Taste In My Mouth?

Your mouth is covered in tons of taste buds and is extremely sensitive. It’s also highly vascular, meaning there’s a heavy blood supply to your oral tissues. The causes behind a metallic taste in your mouth can range from toxins in your bloodstream to undiagnosed diseases to certain types of medications or supplements that you’re on. It may be something that you can just wait out, whereas other causes require immediate attention. [1]

The first step in figuring out how to get rid of the metallic taste in your mouth is to pinpoint the cause or diagnosis behind it. However, the symptom is shared by over a dozen different diagnoses that have nothing to do with each other. Some are serious, while others are more annoying and temporary. Be sure to review the list below to rule out any more chronic causes or life-threatening situations. Also, speak to your doctor about it during your next checkup, even if it’s not seemingly related to anything serious.

13 Reasons for Having a Metal Taste in My Mouth

Changes in the way your mouth tastes can come from bacteria, infections, blood, toxins, and other factors. You might notice your mouth tasting metallic, sour, sweet, or even salty at various times, depending on what the cause is behind it.[2]

While a metallic taste is usually temporary, that’s not always the case. Most people can expect their symptoms to resolve within a few weeks (like when secondary infections clear up), whereas others may be something that sticks with them for life.

Here are 13 of the most common causes to be aware of, as well as tips on how to get rid of a metallic taste in your mouth for each one.

 1. Bloody Nose 

Blood naturally has a metallic taste to it because of its iron content. And since some people are prone to nose bleeds or have them without even noticing, they might be “sniffing” the drainage back into their throat and mouth. This can cause you to notice a metal flavor, possibly even before there is visible bleeding.[3]

TREATMENT: ENT experts recommend pinching your nose closed for several minutes and leaning your head forward. A lot of us probably grew up thinking we needed to tilt our heads back, but that can cause more blood to drip down into our mouth and throat.

 2. Poor Oral Hygiene 

Blood tastes like metal. And infected gums tend to bleed heavily whenever you brush and floss. Especially if you have poor oral health, like severe gingivitis or aggressive periodontal (gum) disease. Healthy gums shouldn’t ever bleed. So, if you’re only brushing or flossing once in a while, you’re probably at a really high risk of blood in your mouth during those intermittent oral hygiene kicks you get on.

TREATMENT: is so important. Don’t stop cleaning your teeth and gums just because there’s bleeding. Good oral hygiene, daily flossing, and brushing along your gums is the first step in preventing bleeding. Normal bleeding on flossing because of gingivitis can be reversed in about two weeks. On the other hand, aggressive gum disease requires treatment with your dentist. Be sure to plan on scheduling a professional cleaning or deep cleaning to remove the buildup below your gums that is contributing to the infection. Otherwise, the infection will continue to get worse since you can’t treat it on your own.

Pro Tip: If you hate flossing, try a water flosser!

 3. Vitamins and Supplements 

 If you’re supplementing with specific types of vitamins or other products that contain metals—like zinc or prenatal vitamins with iron, for instance—it is naturally going to cause you to have additional metal in your body and possibly hit your tongue on the way down. Especially if it’s a dissolvable lozenge like a lot of zinc-based cold supplements are.

TREATMENT: Try different variations of the vitamin to see if the delivery method helps with the taste in your mouth. Some need to be dissolved on your tongue, while others don’t. Also, double-check with your doctor about the dosage and types of supplements you need to be taking. If you take them at night before you go to bed, it may limit how often you notice a metallic taste in your mouth.

4. Pregnancy

Expectant moms might be taking prenatal vitamins that can cause a metallic taste in their mouth or even nausea. Additionally, first-trimester hormonal changes may lead to an increased risk of dental health issues like “pregnancy gingivitis,” with swollen and bleeding gums (and bleeding gums tend to cause a metallic taste in your mouth.) Plus, some pregnant women experience what’s called “dysgeusia” as a side effect of pregnancy, which is a type of taste disorder that is associated with various different types of health conditions.

TREATMENT: A metallic taste in the mouth in pregnancy may be hormone-induced or caused by supplements that you’re taking. Make sure you’re brushing and flossing well, watching which vitamins you’re taking, and all of it will usually be over with by the time you’ve had your baby! If you experience morning sickness, make sure to rinse right after.[4]

5. Sinus infections, Colds, or Upper Respiratory Infections

Any time you have phlegm or drainage in the back of your throat, or some type of upper-respiratory infection, it creates a lot of bad-tasting mucous. But it can also cause temporary changes in the way things taste, especially since your nose and sense of smell are off. If you’ve ever tried tasting things with your nose pinched shut, you’ll notice they don’t taste the same.

TREATMENT: Once your sinus infection or cold clears up, you should be good to go. Consider taking an over-the-counter decongestant and/or expectorant to help clear out the mucous. But if you don’t get better after a few days or start to feel way worse, consider seeing your doctor.

6. Food Allergies

You probably thought that seasonal allergies should be lumped in with colds (listed above.) But hay fever isn’t the only type of allergy that can cause a metallic taste in your mouth. Eating pine nuts can also cause a metallic taste according to the FDA. A metallic taste might be something far, far, far more serious: like an allergic reaction. Some people who are allergic to tree nuts and shellfish can experience a metallic taste in their mouth if they’ve been exposed to off-limit foods. The reason this is so alarming is that the metallic taste will usually be one of the first symptoms that something is wrong; it can happen before anaphylaxis even kicks in.

TREATMENT: If you know you have dangerous food allergies and suddenly experience a metallic taste in your mouth when you’re eating, it’s best to locate your epi-pen and possibly go ahead and administer a dose of epinephrine to yourself before your airway starts to seal shut. Talk to your doctor about your allergy symptoms ahead of time so that you can work together to make a game plan before something like this happens.

7. Cancer Treatment

Cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy will experience numerous negative side effects as a result of their treatment. Your mouth isn’t any different. Dry mouth (xerostomia)[5] is the most common, as is burning mouth syndrome. All of these changes and medicines can also cause some people to develop a metallic sensation in their mouth, especially right after treatments or if they’re being treated for cancer that’s in their head or neck.

TREATMENT: Some medical professionals recommend supplementing with vitamin D and zinc (even though zinc is known for causing a metallic taste in your mouth) to help. [6]Rinsing with a non-alcoholic, lubricating/moisturizing mouth rinse can also help manage cancer-related oral side effects like xerostomia. Although a metallic taste is annoying, it doesn’t outweigh the lifesaving cancer therapies these patients need to get their health back on the right track. Talk with your doctor about the neurological aspects of taste disorders.[7]

8. Prescription Medication 

Antibiotic treatment is known for messing with your taste buds and causing temporary metallic tastes in your mouth. Blood pressure medications can do the same thing, as can those taken for your thyroid, psychotropics, or ones used for neurological treatments, just to name a few. It would be impossible to list all of them here, as many prescription drugs directly affect your mouth in ways like xerostomia.

TREATMENT: Since antibiotics are usually to blame—and they’re only taken for a week or so at a time—the metallic taste in your mouth should be short-lived. Never stop taking your prescriptions without first consulting with your doctor. If the side effects are so severe that they make it difficult to stay on your medication, talk with your physician or medical specialist about alternatives that might be available. 

9. Chemical Exposure 

Toxic metals can cause someone to develop a metallic taste in their mouth, especially if they’re inhaled in high concentrations or there is some type of environmental contamination. The most common examples include lead-based paint (like inhaling the fumes if you’re removing it,) mercury in fish that came from a contaminated water source, or the mercury in broken old-fashioned thermometers. Some pesticides can also cause a metallic taste if you accidentally poisoned yourself or inhaled them while spraying.

TREATMENT: You’ll either need to call the poison control hotline for guidance at (800) 222-1222 and/or head straight to the nearest emergency room. Some types of poisoning can be lethal, while others are more gradual (like living with lead-based paint in your home.)

 10. Mouth Injury, Infection, or Oral Surgery 

If you have an active dental abscess, severe gum infection, or another mouth sore that’s bleeding or oozing, it can cause a metallic taste in your mouth. Sometimes sores come and go, like in the case of dental abscesses, where the “fistula” (pimple) flares up and then seems to go away.

TREATMENT: Active bleeding or pus in your mouth needs to be addressed by your dentist. Abscessed teeth will require a root canal at your earliest convenience. If you’ve recently had oral surgery, you can typically expect a metallic taste for a day or so as the bleeding subsides. But anything longer than that might indicate that a blood clot came loose or you need a follow-up appointment.

 11. Neurological Diseases 

Healthy nerves and blood vessels are essential to a properly-functioning tongue. But when neurological disorders, such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), come into play, the nerves in your head and neck can be affected. We’ve also seen that people who experience impaired taste, or the loss of taste and smell associated with COVID-19 might also have weird tastes in their mouths.

TREATMENT: Some types of neurological diseases have no treatment. In comparison, others improve on their own over time after a period of weeks or months. People with GBS may opt to get immunoglobulin therapy, a plasma exchange, or just try to “wait it out.” If severe symptoms persist, be sure to speak to a neurologist to discuss your options.

 12. Diabetes and High Blood Sugar 

Did you know that a metallic taste in your mouth could be a possible warning sign of diabetes? If your blood sugar levels are higher than they’re supposed to be, you might notice the taste in your mouth changing when it wasn’t there before. Your food might not taste the same as it used to, either. This symptom is usually associated with Type 1 diabetes when glucose levels are elevated. [8]

TREATMENT: Talk to your doctor or endocrinologist about testing for a diabetes diagnosis. In addition to taking any medication or changing your diet, be sure to get plenty of exercise. Exercise helps with high blood sugar levels and can be paired with your insulin to manage the symptoms.

13. Acid Reflux 

Heartburn is caused by acid refluxing, where stomach acids regurgitate from your stomach up through your esophagus and into your mouth. Those yucky acids can affect your tastebuds, sometimes causing a sudden metallic taste in your mouth. Keep in mind that heartburn can also accompany heart attacks, so don’t ignore it!

TREATMENT: To treat the underlying problem, make sure you try to cut back on the spicy or greasy foods that trigger your heartburn flare-ups. Some people also recommend rinsing with a glass of water with a teaspoon of baking soda stirred into it to neutralize the acids in your mouth (since using a toothbrush would scrub them around.) Always take medication as directed, even if your symptoms improve.

Metallic Taste in Your Mouth Treatment

  •  To get rid of a metallic taste in your mouth:
  • Take all medication as prescribed by your doctor
  • Watch your diet (avoid spicy or greasy foods)
  • Gargle and rinse with 8 oz. of water with 1 teaspoon of baking soda stirred into it
  • Use a mouthwash with essential oils for a minty-fresh feeling that lasts longer between uses
  • Drink water frequently throughout the day
  • Chew sugar-free gum
  • Address dry mouth symptoms by using moisturizing mouthwash, sugar-free mints, and avoiding alcohol
  • Brush and floss thoroughly each day
  • Treat active gum disease with good home care and professional deep cleanings
  • Modify or change which supplements you’re taking
  • Discuss symptoms with your doctor to determine if another medical treatment is required

Metallic Taste in Your Mouth Prevention 

Have you ever heard the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” It’s usually the case with anything, including your oral health. When it comes to treating or controlling the symptoms of metallic tastes in your mouth, prevention is the best medicine.

To prevent a metallic taste, you’ll first need to nail down the cause behind it. That way, you can determine if there is something you’re doing that’s making symptoms worse or something else you can do to prevent them at all.

For example, if you’re taking a zinc supplement or a prenatal vitamin, maybe you switch to taking it at dinner before you go to bed instead of first thing in the morning (when you notice the taste for the rest of the day.) Or, if you have a food allergy you didn’t know about, you can avoid specific meals in the future.

Know When To Talk With Your Doctor 

Always communicate weird or persistent symptoms to your primary care provider/family doctor. Since a metallic taste can be serious at times—like in the case of diabetes or kidney failure—you owe it to yourself and your family not to ignore the symptoms. As you start to narrow down your warning signs, make a note of other related conditions. Are you taking new medications or supplements? Could you possibly be pregnant? Have you recently recovered from COVID-19 or another virus? It might be worth an extra follow-up at your doctor’s office instead of waiting until your annual physical or well visit.

Overcoming A Bitter or Metallic Taste

It can be frustrating dealing with your tastebuds constantly being out of whack. Understanding how to get rid of a metallic taste in your mouth comes from nailing down a specific cause or diagnosis behind it. That way, you know whether it’s something serious or a situation you can wait out. If you think it’s related to a major medical issue or food allergy, be sure to speak to your physician or another medical specialist. The good news is that in most cases, it will clear up on its own.

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