What causes a metallic taste?
The taste process involves thousands of sensory neurons embedded in your taste buds and in the uppermost part of your nose (olfactory system). These neurons signal what you are eating and tasting to your brain.
A metallic taste in the mouth can be caused by any disease, disorder or condition that interferes with the taste process, including smoking, the common cold, aging, and neurological disorders. In many cases, the metallic or bad taste will disappear on its own when the underlying condition, such as an upper respiratory infection, is resolved.
However, there are certain causes, such as chemical poisoning, and autoimmune and neurological disorders, that can be more serious. If you are taking medications and suspect that they may be the underlying factor in the bitter taste in your mouth, talk with your doctor about your symptoms. It is possible that a switch to another medication may resolve the issue.
Common conditions that can cause a metallic taste
A metallic or altered sense of taste can be due to the following conditions:
Breathing through your mouth, which leads to a dry mouth
Infections that can cause a metallic taste
A metallic or altered sense of taste can be due to infectious diseases including:
Common cold, flu, or any upper respiratory infection
Nasal infection or sinusitis
Salivary gland infection
Sore throat (pharyngitis)
Trauma or injuries that can cause a metallic taste
A metallic or altered sense of taste can arise from trauma to the mouth or the sensory nerves that perceive taste including:
Burning or biting the tongue
Chemical poisoning, such as exposure to insecticides
Head, nose or mouth injury
Other conditions that cause a metallic taste
A metallic or altered sense of taste can be due to a variety of other diseases, disorders and conditions including:
Bell’s palsy (neurological disorder)
Dental or orthodontic appliances, such as braces
Dental problems, such as gingivitis or dental surgery
Glossitis (inflammation of the tongue)
Hay fever or other allergies that result in a stuffy nose
Neurological disorders, including brain damage
Radiation therapy to the head or neck
Sjogren’s syndrome (autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks the moisture-producing glands in the body)
Surgery to the ears, nose or throat
Vitamin B12 or zinc deficiency
Medications that can cause a metallic taste
A metallic or altered sense of taste can be due to a variety of medications including:
Acetylcholine esterase inhibitors for Alzheimer’s disease
Captopril (Capoten) for high blood pressure and heart failure
Lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid)
Penicillamine (Cuprimine, Depen) for severe rheumatoid arthritis and Wilson’s disease
Procarbazine (Matulane) for Hodgkin’s disease
Rifampin (Rifamate, Rifater, IsonaRif) for tuberculosis or to prevent bacterial meningitis
Questions for diagnosing the cause of a metallic taste
To diagnose the underlying cause of a metallic taste, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions about your symptoms. Providing complete answers to these questions will help your provider in diagnosing the cause of a metallic taste:
When did the metallic taste first appear?
Describe any changes in the texture, appearance and taste of the tongue. Have you noticed any tongue swelling or mouth sores or lesions?
Describe all diseases and conditions in your medical and dental history and list all the medications, supplements, and herbal drugs you are taking. Do you smoke?
Have you been in recent contact with any unusual substances or environments, such as chemicals, insecticides, or hot and spicy foods?
Describe any recent conditions, such as fever, upper respiratory infections, oral or tongue trauma, or other conditions of the mouth, throat or nose.
What are the potential complications of a metallic taste?
Complications associated with a metallic taste can be progressive, and vary depending on the underlying cause. Because a metallic taste can be due to a serious disease, failure to seek treatment can result in complications and permanent damage. It is important to contact your health care provider when you experience any kind of persistent change in taste or smell. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, following the treatment plan you and your doctor design specifically for you can help reduce any potential complications including:
Depression due to a reduced ability to enjoy food
Loss of appetite and change of eating habits
Malnutrition due to loss of appetite
Possibility of eating spoiled food
- Weight loss
- Taste – impaired. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003050.htm.
- Taste and Smell. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), a service of the National Institutes of Health. http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/healt/smelltaste/Pages/Default.aspx.
What is a metallic taste?
A metallic taste is a distorted sense of taste in your mouth. A metallic, bitter or foul taste in the mouth is also referred to as dysgeusia.
... Read more about metallic tasteintroduction
What other symptoms might occur with a metallic taste?
A metallic taste may occur by itself or with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that may accompany a metallic taste include:
Change in facial movements due to facial nerve dysfunction
- Dry m... Read more about metallic tastesymptoms