By Medicover Hospitals / 03 Mar 2021
Having a metallic taste in your mouth is quite common, and if you're relatively healthy it's usually nothing to worry about. Since taste is directly related to your sense of smell, conditions that affect it or your taste buds are often the culprits, including sinus infections, drug side effects, and food allergies. Although rarer, there are also possible more serious causes, including diabetes, dementia, and kidney failure.
A metallic taste is a disorderly sense of taste in the mouth. A metallic, bitter, or foul taste in the mouth is also called dysgeusia.
A lack of change in taste can be due to anything that interferes with the normal taste process. The taste and flavors that you perceive are the results of a combination of the sense of smell and the sensory neurons in your taste buds, which tell the brain what substances you taste.
You were born with around 10,000 taste buds, but you start to lose them with age. This is why older people can generally tolerate more intense tastes than children. Taste can also be altered by smoking and certain diseases and conditions. Common conditions that can affect your sense of taste include a stuffy nose of allergies or cold, sinus infection, and some medications. A metallic taste during pregnancy is also a fairly common complaint.
Because a metallic taste can be a sign of an infection or other condition, you should see a doctor quickly and talk to your doctor about your symptoms. If a metallic taste persists, reappears, or causes concern, tell your doctor or health care provider. Seek immediate medical attention if you have difficulty breathing or swallowing.
- What is Metallic Taste In Mouth?
- When to visit a Doctor?
Several factors can trigger a metallic taste in the mouth. The problem can go away without intervention or when a person changes their lifestyle, such as stopping a certain medication. Sometimes, however, it can indicate an underlying condition that requires medical attention.
Here are some potential causes of a metallic taste in your mouth.
- Poor Oral Hygiene: If you don't brush and floss regularly, it can lead to tooth and gum problems like gingivitis, periodontitis, and dental infection. These infections can be eliminated with a prescription from your dentist. The taste of the metal usually goes away after the infection clears.
- Prescription drugs: These drugs include antibiotics such as tetracycline; allopurinol, a gout medicine; lithium, which is used to treat certain psychiatric conditions; and some heart medications. Your body absorbs the medicine and it comes out in saliva. Also, drugs that can cause dry mouth, such as antidepressants, can be culprits. These can affect your taste as they shut down your taste buds.
- Vitamins or over-the-counter medications: Multivitamins that contain heavy metals (like copper, zinc, or chromium) or cold remedies (like zinc lozenges) can cause a metallic taste. The same goes for prenatal vitamins and iron or calcium supplements. Usually, the taste will go away when your body processes the vitamins or medications. If not, check your dosage and make sure you are not taking too much.
- Infections: Upper respiratory tract infections, colds, and sinusitis affect your sense of taste. This is temporary and usually ends when the infection occurs. Cancer treatment: Patients treated for cancer with chemotherapy or radiation therapy may experience a metallic taste.
- Pregnancy: During the early stages of pregnancy, some women find that their sense of taste changes. One of these changes can be a metallic taste.
- Dementia: People with dementia often have taste abnormalities. Nerves connect the taste buds to the brain. Taste abnormalities can occur when the part of the brain that relates to taste does not work properly.
- Chemical Exposures: If you are exposed to mercury or lead, inhaling high levels of these substances can often produce a metallic taste.
To diagnose the cause of this symptom, a doctor may refer someone to an otolaryngologist. This is a physician who specializes in ear, nose, and throat conditions.
Diagnosis can involve:
Depending on the diagnosis, the doctor may prescribe treatment for the metallic taste itself or for an underlying cause of the problem.
- a physical examination of the ears, nose, and throat
- a dental exam to determine oral hygiene
- a review of the person's medical history and medications
- a taste test to diagnose any taste-related disorder
- other tests to help determine the underlying cause
Usually, treatment focuses on resolving the underlying cause. However, it can be difficult to change a patient's routine. Some causes of taste changes are difficult to eliminate. For example, some medications, such as those for blood pressure, are not easily changed without risk for other health problems. In many cases, the metallic taste can take a long time to wear off.
When to visit a Doctor?
If you briefly experience a metallic taste in your mouth, this is probably not a problem. Take note if you've recently started any new medications, as this is an extremely common culprit. However, if you have this experience persistently and have other worrisome symptoms, you should see your doctor.
There are a few preventative measures you can take to avoid the metallic taste in your mouth. First, brush your teeth and tongue twice a day, floss once a day, chew sugarless gum, and drink plenty of water. Stopping smoking and avoiding certain spicy foods can help, and switching to utensils that don't contain metal.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Although rare, liver or kidney disease can also cause a metallic taste in the mouth. These chemicals are released in the saliva, causing a metallic taste. For example, patients with serious renal disease will have an excessive production of ammonia in the saliva, causing a metallic taste in the mouth.
Diabetes and hypoglycemia are both known to cause taste disturbances, including a metallic taste in the mouth. A common diabetes drug, metformin, is also very likely to cause this taste disorder.
Anxiety can cause a wide range of physiological symptoms, such as a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth. Research has shown that there is a strong link between taste changes and stress - possibly because of chemicals released into your body as part of the fight-or-flight response.
Metallic Taste - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0305737214001923
Metallic Taste - https://academic.oup.com/chemse/article/29/1/25/275435?login=true