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Dysgeusia: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Our ability to taste is often something we don’t think about—until a taste disorder compromises it. One of these disorders is dysgeusia, which happens when your sense of taste becomes distorted, and everything tastes bitter, sour, or metallic. While taste disorders are common, they can be troubling. Luckily, there are ways to treat this condition. Here, we’ll look into symptoms, causes, and what you can do.

Dysgeusia Symptoms

The main symptoms of dysgeusia have to do with how you perceive taste. You may find that foods have lost their sweetness or saltiness, and food might taste sour, rotten, or metallic. People with this condition also might have it in tandem with burning mouth syndrome, where your mouth has a burning sensation that causes pain.

Dysgeusia Causes

Dysgeusia isn’t an anomaly—in fact, several causes can help you identify why you might be experiencing this condition.

  • Medication. A metallic sensation is a common taste quality attributed to medication use. According to an article in Toxicological Sciences, more than 200 medications are known to cause taste disorders, yet drug developers often overlook this side effect. Further, specific medications are known to have this side effect, including angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, antibiotics, and diuretics.
  • Cancer treatment. Dysgeusia occurs as a side effect of chemotherapy and radiation. It is more common in treating head and neck cancers, though it can appear with the treatment of any cancer. Cancer treatment interferes with our ability to taste or smell food temporarily or permanently. If you are undergoing chemotherapy or other cancer treatments, talk with your doctors about these side effects to prevent malnutrition and weight loss.
  • Diabetes. Another reason for tongue dysfunction is in people with undiagnosed diabetes, especially in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Often referred to as “diabetic tongue” by an article in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, dysgeusia can be an early disease symptom. Researchers found altered taste was not constant throughout the day, which could be attributed to fluctuations in blood sugar levels and identified as an early clinical sign for diabetes.
  • Infection and Inflammation. If you’re undergoing a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection in your mouth, teeth, gums, or throat, this can cause swelling, which in turn reduces blood flow to taste buds and can create chemicals that alter your sense of taste.
  • Vitamin Deficiencies. If you have a deficiency in B vitamins like B12 or zinc, you might experience this condition.
  • Other Causes. Dry mouth, tobacco use, autoimmune diseases, aging, and physiological changes, such as pregnancy and menopause, can also cause this condition. Also, head injuries and certain surgeries of the ear, nose, and throat can cause taste disorders. Dental issues like poor oral hygiene and the extraction of a wisdom tooth can also lead to dysgeusia.

Dysgeusia Treatment

Treatment for taste dysfunctions like dysgeusia often includes addressing the underlying problem when possible. In some cases, the condition may be self-limiting and resolve on its own. In other instances, you might be able to address symptoms due to smoking or vitamin deficiencies by quitting smoking or taking supplements. However, when it occurs due to systemic issues or medications, you can manage a taste disturbance through nutritional, dietary, and palliative treatment. Lastly, management of your existing disorders, like diabetes, may help relieve symptoms. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms, reach out to your dental professional or doctor, and they can help you figure out the best treatment plan.

To avoid inadequate nutrition and unhealthy ingredients to enhance taste, talk to a registered dietician about flavoring agents and spices is also essential. Furthered counseling explains the importance of avoiding additional salts and sugars, which are linked to increase the risks of cavities and contribute to high blood pressure.

Finally, it is crucial to seek regular dental visits for preventive oral health care and maintain excellent oral care on your own. That means brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and soft bristle toothbrush and cleaning between the teeth daily with floss, water flossers, or another interdental cleaning device.

Along with routine home care, a healthy lifestyle, and managing any other conditions, these tactics may reduce or diminish dysgeusia and make you more excited about sitting around the dinner table and enjoying your meals.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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