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Metallic Taste in the Mouth

Metallic Taste in the Mouth

A metal-like taste can have an association with a number of factors, ranging from dental problems, vitamin deficiency, and allergies to diseases like kidney failure and cancer. This article explains the most common causes of this condition, along with a few remedies.
Chandramita Bora
Last Updated: May 14, 2018
Did you know?
We are born with about 10,000 taste buds. But, some of these taste buds start to disappear as we grow older, which is why children are more sensitive to certain tastes than adults. Another interesting fact is that women usually have more taste buds than men.

Dysgeusia is the medical term that is used for an altered or distorted sense of taste, which can be an acidic, sour, bitter or a metal-like taste in the mouth. Needless to say that such an altered sensation of taste can be quite an annoying experience for anyone.

A metal-like taste in the mouth often goes away on its own within a couple of days, without any medical intervention. But persistent metallic taste can be associated with certain medical conditions. So, it is important to know the factors that can bring about a change in the taste. These factors are explained below.

Causes

Oral Problems

Poor oral hygiene has been observed to be one of the most common causes of an altered sensation of taste. Tooth decay and abscesses, plaque formation, dental caries, gingivitis, and periodontitis are the oral diseases that can occur, if proper oral hygiene is not maintained. All these conditions can produce an unpleasant taste in the mouth. When the gums bleed due to conditions like gingivitis and periodontitis, iron present in the blood breaks down, which in turn can taste like metal. Apart from oral diseases, dental fillings, especially those made from mercury and silver can break down at times, and react with certain substances inside the mouth to affect taste. Likewise, dentures and other dental hardware, made of metal can alter taste as well.

Sinus Problems
An altered sense of taste can have an association with an impaired sense of smell, as both the sensations are closely related. This explains why many people experience an unpleasant taste in their mouth, when they have nasal or sinus infection, stuffy nose (due to cold or allergies) and nasal polyps. Post-nasal drip can cause a change in the taste too.

Pregnancy
A change in the taste can be an early pregnancy symptom for many women, which can be attributed to the hormonal fluctuations that take place during this period. The hormone, estrogen, is mainly believed to be responsible for controlling taste and food cravings, and hence a fluctuation in the level of estrogen during pregnancy can change taste considerably. This can make pregnant women more sensitive to certain tastes, or produce an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

Another reason for experiencing an unpleasant metal-like taste during pregnancy could be the close relationship between the sensation of taste and smell, which has been mentioned earlier. As women develop an acute sense of smell during pregnancy, their sense of taste can also undergo a significant change. All these changes mostly occur during the first trimester of pregnancy (when hormonal fluctuation is very strong), and then gradually subside in the second trimester, when the pregnancy hormones settle down. In addition to these, prenatal vitamins can also produce a metallic taste in the mouth in some pregnant women.

Medication
A metal-like unpleasant taste can be a side effect of certain medication at times. Some of these medication are listed below.
  • Antibiotics like Biaxin (clarithromycin), Flagyl (metronidazole), trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, pentamidine, ethionamide, and penicillin.
  • Thyroid medication like propylthiouracil, carbimazole, radioactive iodine, and methimazole.
  • Diabetes medicines such as, metformin.
  • Letrozole, cisplatin, levamisole, and carboplatin (which are used in the treatment of cancer).
  • Medication like, captopril, enalapril, and nifedipine (which are used for treating high blood pressure and certain heart diseases).
  • Lidocaine (anesthetic).
  • Dexlansoprazole (used to treat heartburn).
  • Arthritis medicines such as, aurothioglucose, penicillamine, auranofin, sulindac and gold sodium thiomalate.
  • Acetazolamide and methazolamide, used for treating glaucoma.
  • Some iron, calcium, and vitamin D supplements.
  • Lithium, used in treating bipolar disorder.
  • Teriparatide, griseofulvin, disulfiram, methocarbamol, interferon, and certain antidepressant medication.
GERD
This is the condition, where stomach acid regurgitates towards the esophagus or the food pipe, which in turn can leave behind a metallic or sour taste in your mouth. Along with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), occurrence of peptic ulcer can also affect taste adversely.

Clupeotoxin Poisoning
Clupeotoxin poisoning is one of the most serious conditions that can produce metallic taste in the mouth. It is caused by the consumption of contaminated fish, especially plankton-eating fish like sardines, tarpons, bonefish or herrings. Along with a metallic taste, this poisoning can produce symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dry mouth, blue-tinged fingers, toes and lips, dizziness, and a drop in blood pressure. Clupeotoxin poisoning can prove fatal at times, if not treated immediately.

OLP/BMS
Oral lichen planus (OLP) is the condition which is characterized by the appearance of white or red raised patches, or open sores on the mucous membrane inside the mouth. When such lesions appear on the tongue, one may get a metal-like taste in his or her mouth.

Burning mouth syndrome (BMS), on the other hand, is characterized by a burning pain that can be felt on the tongue, gums, roof of the mouth, lips, and inside the cheeks. Along with the burning sensation, this condition can cause a change in the taste like oral lichen planus.

Allergies
Allergies can affect our sense of taste and smell, which is the case with runny and stuffy nose. Food allergies can also cause a metal-like taste in the mouth, along with some other allergy symptoms. In case of food allergies, the immune system mistakenly identifies proteins found in certain foods (like nuts) as harmful, and produces histamine and other chemicals to destroy these proteins. This results in an allergic reaction that produces symptoms like nausea, difficulty in breathing, dizziness, and swelling of the face, lips, and mouth, along with a change in the taste.

Other Reasons
A persistent change in the taste can be the symptom of a number of systemic and nervous system diseases. Diabetes, hyperparathyroidism, Sjögren's syndrome, kidney failure, cancer, and sarcoidosis are some of the systemic diseases associated with an altered sense of taste. Similarly, nervous system diseases like tumors and inflammatory diseases can cause metallic taste in the mouth. Cerebrospinal fluid leakage can also cause abnormalities of taste.

Apart from these, deficiency of vitamin B12 and zinc, liver diseases (such as jaundice), overload of minerals (like selenium, copper, and iron), mercury and cadmium poisoning, chronic alcoholism, and cigarette smoking have been found to cause taste changes in many individuals.

Home Remedies
Though it is best to consult a doctor for treatment, you can also follow the home remedies given below.
  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with a mint-flavored toothpaste can help a lot, as the lack of oral hygiene is one of the most common causes of an altered sense of taste. Along with brushing, do not forget to floss and use a tongue scrapper to clean your tongue.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day to eliminate that bad taste in your mouth. Along with water, you can also drink fruit juices made from citrus fruits like, lime or lemon, grapefruit, and orange.
  • Foods marinated or prepared with vinegar such as, pickles, sauces, and chutneys can also help to eliminate bad taste in the mouth.
  • Condiments like cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom can help to overcome metal-like taste as well.
  • Using a suitable mouthwash or rinsing the mouth with saline water can check the growth of bacteria and hence keep the oral cavity fresh and free from bad breath and taste.
  • Chewing gum is another useful remedy for metallic taste.
  • Baking soda can neutralize acids, and hence eliminate acidic taste in your mouth. It can be mixed with salt and used as a toothpaste to get rid of bad taste.
Though these remedies can help to reduce metallic taste, it is advisable to consult a health practitioner, especially if it is persistent in nature, or recurs frequently. This is because, sometimes it can be caused by serious conditions like renal failure, lead and mercury poisoning, or cancer.

Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for professional medical advice.