The mouth comprises around 10,000 taste buds, of which maximum number are located on and around the tongue. They surround the tiny bumps around the tongue. Besides the tongue, these taste buds are also present on the roof of the mouth, on the inner side of the cheeks, on the lips and on the back of the throat.
Each taste bud is capable of detecting five primary tastes such as sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami (salt of certain acids like monosodium glutamate). All tastes experienced by us are the combination of the primary taste sensations.
However, some people experience an altered sense of taste or dysgeusia. This can be experienced in the form of a disguised metallic taste or bad taste in the mouth.
What Causes Bad Taste in the Mouth?
Hormones, especially estrogen are known to cause foul taste in the mouth. Certain prenatal vitamins or hormone pills can also conduce to an aftertaste. Severe conditions of bad taste can result in nausea and increased morning sickness discomfort. However, the bad taste experienced during pregnancy, is temporary and gradually disappears as the months proceed.
Quite a number of people experience bad metallic taste in mouth due to the consumption of certain medicines. Anti-thyroid and neurological drugs, zinc preparations, antidepressants, etc. cause metallic taste in the mouth. However, not all who consume these medicines will encounter this symptom.
If the aftertaste is unbearable, ask your health care provider to prescribe another medicine. Treatment options like chemotherapy can also be the reason for bad taste in the mouth.
Halitosis or Bad Breath
The phenomenon of halitosis leaves a bad taste in the mouth, along with bad odor. Protein is broken down in the mouth into sulfur molecules (that one can smell in the breath), as well as by products that can be tasted by bacteria. The taste of anaerobic bacteria and the by-products is very unpleasant and rotten.
Food particles stuck between the teeth encourage the growth of such bacteria. Moreover, dental ailments also stimulate the growth of these bacteria, thereby resulting in bad breath or bad taste.
Dental problems, such as tooth decay arising out of poor oral hygiene also result in bad taste in the mouth. Moreover, gum infections and diseases can also be the reason for the bad taste one experiences in the mouth. Sometimes, the dental fillings can also come loose gradually and can be the causative factor behind this bad taste.
The regurgitation of stomach acid into the esophagus and throat region, from the stomach is called acid reflux and can causes a bad taste in the mouth. This bad taste is also called metallic or acid taste. Acid reflux or Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) occurs mostly after overeating, irregular eating patterns or consumption of too much of spicy food.
Infectious Oral Virus
The disruption of the sensory cells of the tongue by an infectious oral virus, can cause taste changes in the mouth. Moreover, other tongue or mouth disorders such as mouth ulcers, fungal infections on the tongue and other parts of the mouth also lead to a bad taste in the mouth.
Many people are unaware of the fact that most of what we discern as taste, is actually our ability to smell. Thus, if one has a cold, nasal infection, nasal polyps, sinusitis or runny nose due to allergies, one will encounter bad taste in the mouth.
People with vitamin or mineral deficiencies may also complain of this altered taste sensation. Several diseases affecting the tissues of throat and mouth such as cancers, gum diseases, etc. cause bad taste. Certain instances of dry mouth and the dental ailment periodontitis are known to leave a bad taste in the mouth.
Some systemic diseases spearhead bad taste due to the by-products carried into the saliva and discharged through the saliva. Smoking and vitamin B12 or a mineral deficiency will also result in altered tastes.
Treating Bad Taste in the Mouth
There are some ways of getting rid of the foul taste in the mouth. Depending on the cause of bad taste, one can counter the problem. If halitosis is the problem, then it can be cured by maintaining appropriate oral hygiene. Personal dental care like brushing, flossing and gargling regularly can help keep bad taste as well as bad breath at bay.
Moreover, consuming vegetables and fruits also help counter bad taste issues. If medication is the cause of bad taste in mouth, then a similar medicine without this side effect can be taken. If periodontitis is the problem, then it needs to be addressed with a visit to the dentist.
Bad taste in mouth can be avoided by maintaining proper oral hygiene. Rinsing the mouth after eating or drinking beverages or milk products, can help prevent this condition. Doing a salt water gargle twice a day is also recommended.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.