What causes loss of taste?

Inflammation and infection of the upper respiratory tract, sinuses, mouth, and tongue can result in loss of taste. Symptoms may arise from inflammatory conditions, infections, or diseases that affect the taste buds of the tongue responsible for the sensation of taste. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) has a similar effect on the surface the tongue, which may be damaged by gastric acid and bile.

In addition, loss of taste can be caused by conditions that affect other areas of the body, such as the nervous system. In certain nutrient deficiencies the body does not receive enough of a specific vitamin or nutrient crucial to nerve function, leading to nerve dysfunction or damage. In the case of the nerves that innervate the tongue, the sensation of taste may be lost.

Common causes of loss of taste

A number of other conditions can cause loss of taste including:

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Mouth infections or abscess
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Radiation therapy
  • Salivary gland infection
  • Sinus infection
  • Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disorder characterized by dry mouth and eyes)
  • Tobacco use

Other causes of loss of taste

Loss of taste can also be caused by other conditions including:

  • Glossitis (a condition in which the tongue swells and changes color)
  • Oral candidiasis (an infection on the mucous membranes of the mouth)
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Zinc deficiency

Serious or life-threatening causes of loss of taste

In some cases, loss of taste may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Brain tumor
  •  Head injury
  • Oral cancer
  • Stroke
  • Transient ischemic attack (temporary stroke-like symptoms that may be a warning sign of an impending stroke)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of loss of taste

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your loss of taste including:

  • How long have you had a loss of taste?
  • What medicines do you take?
  • What other symptoms do you have?
  • When was the last time you visited a dentist?
  • Do you smoke?

What are the potential complications of loss of taste?

Because loss of taste can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Dehydration
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Paralysis
  • Spread of cancer
  • Spread of infection


  1. Taste - impaired. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003050.htm.
  2. Taste disorders. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/smelltaste/pages/taste.aspx.

What is loss of taste?

Loss of taste is a common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), salivary gland infection, sinusitis, poor dental hygiene, or even certain medicines. The medical term for a complete loss of taste is ageusia. A partial loss of taste is called dysgeusia. Loss of taste is caused by interruption of the transfer ... Read more about loss of tasteintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with loss of taste?

Loss of taste may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the sense of taste may also involve other body systems.

Gastrointestinal symptoms that may occur along with loss of taste

Loss of taste may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive system including:

    Read more about loss of tastesymptoms

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 5, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health