What Causes a Metallic Taste in the Mouth?

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A metallic taste in the mouth (parageusia) is quite common and if you are relatively healthy, there is usually nothing to worry about. Because taste is directly related to your sense of smell, conditions that affect it or taste buds, including sinus infections , medication side effects, and food allergies , are often the cause.

Although less common, there are more serious causes, such as diabetes, dementia, and kidney failure.

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Causes

These are the most common sources of metallic taste.

Gum disease or poor oral health

Gingivitis or periodontal disease, which is often due to poor oral hygiene (refusing to have regular dental checkups, brushing or flossing regularly, etc.), can cause a metallic taste in your mouth.

This metallic taste, often caused by bleeding gums, is not serious. Blood is rich in iron, so a metallic taste appears in the mouth.

However, gum disease can and should be treated to avoid complications such as tooth loss. If you suspect that a metallic taste in your mouth may be causing your gum disease, don't wait to make an appointment with your dentist.

Medicines and vitamins

Hundreds of commonly used medications can cause a metallic taste in the mouth because they interact with receptors on the brain's taste buds. Residual amounts of medication in saliva can also cause this.

Some of the more common addicts include :

  • Antihistamines
  • Antibiotics, including metronidazole
  • Antidepressants or antipsychotics.
  • Antifungal medications
  • Medications for blood pressure
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Medicines for diabetes, including metformin.
  • Diuretics
  • Glaucoma Medications
  • Nicotine patches
  • Medications for osteoporosis
  • Radiation drugs
  • Anticonvulsants, including phenytoin
  • Steroids

Vitamins that contain heavy metals like copper, iron, and zinc can also cause a metallic taste simply because of the ingredients they contain. Women often experience this when taking prenatal vitamins .

Oral trauma or oral surgery

If you've recently had oral injuries (tongue biting) or oral surgery (wisdom tooth extraction or tonsillectomy ), you will likely feel a metallic taste until the bleeding stops and the wound heals.

Sinus problems

Conditions such as upper respiratory tract infections, colds, sinusitis , acute or chronic sinus infections, enlarged turbinates , deviated septum , or even a middle ear infection can alter smell and therefore taste .

Specific allergies, including tree pollen, can also cause sinus problems and a metallic taste in your mouth. These problems are usually treated with antibiotics, elimination of the underlying allergy, or surgery. Once the sinus problems go away, the metallic taste in your mouth will go away as well.

The pregnancy

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause taste and odor changes. They can appear as a metallic taste in the mouth .

Food allergy and anaphylaxis.

Specific food allergies, such as shellfish and tree nut allergies, cause a metallic taste in your mouth.

But it can also be an early sign of a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis . The metallic taste can start almost immediately, before other symptoms of anaphylaxis appear, such as itching and swelling of the skin, shortness of breath or wheezing, nausea or vomiting, headaches, and confusion .

Anaphylaxis is life threatening. If you suspect that you or someone close to you is having an anaphylactic reaction, you need immediate emergency help, including an adrenaline shot.

Diabetes and low blood sugar levels.

Diabetes and hypoglycemia are known to cause taste disturbances, including a metallic taste in the mouth. The common diabetes drug , metformin, is also more likely to cause this taste disturbance.

Neurological diseases

Neurological problems, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease , can cause the brain to misinterpret the signals from the taste buds. This can lead to loss of appetite and a metallic taste in your mouth .

Other neurological problems that can cause this include:

Renal insufficiency

Another major cause of a metallic taste in the mouth is kidney failure. Uremic toxicity (excess uric acid) that results from loss of kidney function can cause similar changes in taste. Of course, this symptom alone is far from the only symptom .

Burning mouth syndrome

Some people with burning mouth syndrome, a chronic condition that causes a burning sensation on the tongue or mucous membranes with no other identifiable cause, will also experience a bitter, metallic taste .

Medications used to treat burning mouth syndrome, including tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and gabapentin, can help reduce the metallic taste.

When to contact a healthcare provider

If you have a metallic taste in your mouth for a short time, it is probably not a problem. Be aware if you have recently started taking new medications as this is a very common cause. However, if you continually have this experience and have other worrisome symptoms, you should see your doctor.

How to deal with the metallic taste

Prevention of a metallic taste in the mouth depends mainly on the cause. However, there are some general strategies that can help minimize the metallic taste (or at least make it more bearable). Here are some of them:

  • Keep hydrated. Acidity can also reduce the flavor, so try adding a little lemon or lime to the water.
  • Brush and floss your teeth after meals.
  • Opt for high-quality plastic cookware over metal.
  • Experiment with strong herbs and spices when cooking.
  • Stock up on peppermint or mint-flavored gum to eat between meals.

Frequently asked questions

  • Some examples include multivitamins (containing copper, zinc, and chromium), prenatal vitamins, and calcium or iron supplements. The metallic taste usually goes away as the body processes the vitamins. If you regularly notice a metallic taste, be sure to take the correct dose.

  • Try waiting to eat a couple of hours after your treatment. You can also try eating foods with strong spices or sauces to see if they help hide the metallic taste. Some studies have investigated whether zinc and vitamin D can help with the metallic taste after chemotherapy, but more research is needed.

  • It can be caused by an upper respiratory infection or a sinus infection. Also, some people report a metallic taste after contracting COVID-19. If the metallic taste persists or intensifies, inform your doctor. If you have other serious symptoms, such as coughing up blood or shortness of breath, seek medical attention immediately.

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