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Metallic Taste in Mouth: What Does It Mean?

When you were a kid, did you ever put coins in your mouth? Maybe on a dare? If, as an adult, you have a metallic taste in your mouth – even though your coin-swallowing days are over – what could cause the sensation?

We'll give you the scoop on what the unpleasant, rather bitter taste means and what causes it. We'll also let you in on how to treat and prevent the taste of metal in your mouth.

What Is It?

Parageusia (also referred to as dysgeusia) is the medical definition of a metallic taste in the mouth. You might attribute the taste to metal fillings, but that's not usually the case. You should definitely visit your dentist to find out if your metal fillings are the culprit. We want you to be aware that many things having nothing to do with your mouth have a link to a metallic taste.

Parageusia can activate with a shift in your sense of smell, affecting your sense of taste. But it's rarely a chronic condition. The great news is the metallic taste is normally temporary and goes away once you treat the underlying cause.

What Are the Causes and Treatments for a Metallic Taste?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, causes can range from minor problems to more serious conditions. We hope you're encouraged there's a way to treat or address most causes. Common causes and their treatments include:

Infections: Dental and medical infections that can cause a metallic taste in your mouth include:

  • Infections brought on by poor oral hygiene practices include tooth infections and gum disease, which can develop into acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) – also known as trench mouth.
  • Sinus, middle ear, and upper respiratory infections, including the common cold

Schedule a visit to your dental professionals to treat tooth and gum infections. They might refer you to a periodontist – aka a gum specialist – for more specialized treatment.

Your family doctor or an otolaryngologist – aka an ear, nose, and throat doctor – can diagnose and treat infections involving the ears, sinus, and throat.

One of these health caregivers should fix you up.

Medications: If you take certain drugs – whether prescription and over-the-counter – they permeate your body to do their necessary work. Side effects the medications can cause include:

  • Metallic-tasting saliva
  • Dry mouth, which enhances a metallic mouth taste

Once you're off the medications, your taste buds should go back to normal. In the meantime, you can reduce the effects of dry mouth and unpleasant saliva by drinking plenty of water and chewing sugarless gum.

Supplements: When you start taking certain supplements, your mouth can start taking on the taste of metal. The same can happen with multivitamins containing copper, zinc, and other metallic elements. But the sensation should fade after your body adjusts to the supplements' ingredients. (Yay!)

Pregnancy: Your changing hormones can activate the sensation of the taste of metal in your mouth. Once your baby's born, the bitter taste should go away. (And you'll have a new baby!)

Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy: If you're battling cancer, a metallic taste is one side effect of the disease's treatment.

Nerve-Related Taste Disorders: Dementia is one condition of this disorder that can throw the taste buds out of whack. Unfortunately, this causation doesn't respond to treatment.

Miscellaneous: Other causes linked to a metallic taste in the mouth include:

  • Food allergies
  • Smoking
  • Psychological disorders
  • Hormonal imbalances beyond pregnancy
  • Exposures to lead, mercury, and other chemicals

Like most causes, treatment for these conditions should make the obnoxious taste cease to exist.

Is It Preventable?

Preventive measures you can take to avoid a metallic taste in your mouth include:

  • Establish a proper oral health care routine that includes brushing your teeth and tongue twice a day. (Make sure you gently brush your tongue.) Plus, to further avoid oral infections such as gum disease, floss once daily and rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash.
  • Keep your mouth moist by sipping water throughout the day. Chewing sugar-free gum helps activate your saliva.
  • Quit smoking and avoid certain spicy foods to avoid disrupting your taste buds.
  • Switch to non-metal utensils and cookware.

A metallic taste in your mouth can range from disagreeable to repulsive. And it can be a bummer by interfering with your enjoyment of food. So, if you have such an unpleasant mouth sensation, seek an opinion from your dental professional about the cause. Your dentist might refer you to a dental specialist or a medical doctor for a diagnosis. Your health and dental care team can then treat the cause – or suggest ways you can stop the metallic taste. Most importantly, you can take steps to prevent the flavor of metal in your mouth – all the better to enjoy your food and your life!

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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