A metallic taste in your mouth that just won’t go away can be concerning and very unpleasant. It may also make you avoid eating or drinking in fear of making the taste worse.
A distortion of the sense of taste is called dysgeusia or parageusia and it can develop over time or come on suddenly.
If you don’t have any underlying medical conditions, it’s typically nothing to worry about. Though, in some cases, the cause can be serious.
Here are the reasons you might have a metallic taste in your mouth that you can’t swallow away.
Poor oral hygiene
Infections such as Gingivitis and periodontal disease often result from poor oral hygiene. Skipping regular dentist check-ups and not brushing or flossing regularly are bad habits that can leave a metallic taste in your mouth often caused by bleeding gums.
Untreated gum disease can lead to painful and unsightly complications such as tooth loss. If you suspect that gum disease may be causing the metallic taste in your mouth, make an appointment with your dentist.
Your senses of smell and taste are closely linked so any issues with your sinuses might affect your taste buds.
Conditions such as upper respiratory infections, colds, sinusitis, enlarged turbinates, deviated septum, or even a middle ear infection can cause abnormalities in your senses. Even allergies and hay fever can lead to a strange taste in your mouth.
Addressing the underlying sinus problem often resolves the bad taste.
Changes in taste and dry mouth are side effects of some medications such as:
- heart medication
- medicine for gout
- antidepressants and lithium.
If the metallic taste bothers you, talk to your doctor, but don’t stop taking your medication without their approval.
Everyday multivitamins containing heavy metals such as zinc, iron, or copper can leave behind a metallic aftertaste. The same goes for iron and calcium supplements, and cold remedies or lozenges that have zinc in them. The taste should go away once your body processes the medication.
Heartburn, acid reflux, and indigestion could be responsible for a metallic taste. Other symptoms linked with these conditions are bloating and a burning feeling in your chest after eating.
To treat the underlying problem, avoid rich foods, eat dinner earlier, avoid eating large meal portions and take antacids.
If you keep getting indigestion, have a hard time swallowing, or are in serious pain, see your doctor. The taste in your mouth should go back to normal when your indigestion is under control.
Everyone’s taste buds diminish with age, but for people with dementia, those changes may be expedited as a result of changes in the brain.
A damaged brain can misinterpret signals coming from the taste buds. Sometimes food starts tasting different than it used to, which doctors call ‘taste abnormalities.’
Radiation and chemotherapy can leave a bitter or metallic taste in the patient’s mouth.
Proper teeth cleaning and using mouthwash can ease the taste, but the taste often doesn’t go away completely until treatment is finished.
Adding tart ingredients such as lemon juice, vinegar, or pickles to meals can help to mask the taste. Spices, herbs, and sweeteners can also provide a strong flavour.
Central nervous system (CNS) disorders
Your central nervous system (CNS) sends messages all around your body, including messages about taste. A CNS disorder or injury can distort these messages, possibly resulting in impaired or distorted taste.
Some neurological problems that can set off this reaction include:
- Bell’s palsy
- brain injury or tumours
- multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
Talk to your doctor if you have one of these conditions and are noticing a metallic taste.
One serious possible cause of a metallic taste in your mouth is kidney failure. Uremic toxicity (excessive uric acid), which is due to a loss of kidney function, can cause taste changes.
Eating pine nuts can occasionally cause some people to experience a bitter or metallic taste lasting from a few days up to two weeks.
This taste disturbance has been referred to as ‘pine mouth’ or ‘pine nut syndrome’.
Not all people who consume pine nuts become afflicted with the taste disturbance. The pine nuts do not taste any different at the time, but after one to three days the bitter or metallic taste becomes apparent and is exacerbated by the consumption of food and drink.
The symptoms normally disappear after several days and there are no adverse health effects.
If your job puts you in the path of metal fumes such as zinc oxide, it might mess with your sense of taste. Welders are at high risk of a condition called metal fume fever. It makes you very thirsty and causes a metallic taste in your mouth. It typically goes away in six to 12 hours.
Inhaling high levels of mercury or lead can cause also a metallic taste in your mouth.
Mercury can be brought into your home from industrial sites and broken household items, such as thermometers. Both long- and short-term exposure to mercury can be harmful to your health.
Adults who do home renovations and/or work with batteries have a higher risk of lead poisoning.
Tips to prevent a metallic taste
There are a few steps you can take to minimise a metallic taste in the mouth.
- Maintain good oral hygiene, including regular brushing, flossing and tongue-scraping, to keep your mouth healthy.
- Stay hydrated to prevent dry mouth, which can cause a metallic taste.
- Swap out metal cutlery and water bottles, which can worsen metallic tastes. Try glass, plastic or ceramic versions instead.
- Rinse your mouth before you eat, using a solution of baking soda and warm water. It can regulate the pH balance of your mouth and help to neutralise acid.
- Quit smoking, as cigarettes may exacerbate the taste of metal.
- Suck on ice, whether it’s cubes, chips or unsweetened icy poles.
- Pop a mint or chew on a piece of gum.
Whatever you do, though, don’t neglect to get to the root cause of the issue.
Have you ever experienced a metallic taste that just won’t go away? How did you deal with the problem? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.