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What Causes Sour Tongue and How to Prevent It

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Sour cream is great on a baked potato. Heavy metal is great to work out to. But a sour or metallic taste in your mouth is not great. Occasional bad tastes are one thing, perhaps triggered by too many cups of coffee. But when it becomes more frequent, that sour taste is worth getting to the bottom of it. What's the cause of these sour and metallic tastes? What does it mean? How can you prevent it? Check out all of those answers below.

What Causes the Condition?

Before getting to the cause, let's identify it first. What you may be experiencing is commonly referred to as dysgeusia (or parageusia). This taste disorder leaves your tongue and mouth with a very unpleasant lingering sensation. It's often described as a bitter, metallic, or sour taste perception. And many factors could cause it. Taste disorders, like dysgeusia, can be caused by:

  • Infection
    Infections to your teeth, gums, mouth, or throat cause swelling, reduce taste bud blood flow, and can alter your taste.
  • Inflammation
    Taste pores can close up if your tongue is swollen and inflamed.
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiencies
    Shortages in certain minerals and vitamins, especially B12 and zinc, can affect your sense of taste.
  • Dry mouth
    When there's a lack of saliva flow, dry mouth is very common, causing your taste receptors to not being stimulated.
  • Medication side effects
    ACE inhibitors, antibiotics, diuretics, and chemotherapy agents can all affect your ability to taste.
  • Nerve damage or trauma
    If you've been in a traumatic accident on the tongue, neck, or have had Bell's palsy or other ear surgeries, your taste could be affected.
  • Neurologic disorders
    MS, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease can all decrease your taste.
  • Metabolic changes
    Kidney disease, diabetes, pregnancy, and hypothyroidism can all cause taste disturbances.
  • Tobacco use
    All forms of tobacco (smoking, chewing tobacco, etc.) can affect your tongue, throat, mouth, and tasting ability.
  • Acid reflux or GERD
    Suffers of gastroesophageal reflux disease often experience a sour taste in their mouth.
  • Oral hygiene
    Bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth can be attributed to poor oral hygiene — making proper oral care and regular dental checkups imperative.

Ways to Prevent Sour Tongue

Preventing and treating sour tongue or dysgeusia really depends on the cause of it. There are many things that you could try. Some are just sensible decisions when it comes to good oral care, and some are recommended by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery:

  • Hydrate
    Drinking plenty of water can help wash the sour taste away and stimulate saliva flow.
  • Sugarless gum
    Chewing sugar-free gum stimulates your saliva flow and help eliminate the bad taste associated with dry mouth.
  • Dietary changes
    If suffering from GERD, avoid foods that may irritate your stomach, like tomatoes, citrus fruits, caffeine, chocolate, or soda, leading to higher levels of acid reflux.
  • Vitamins and minerals
    Supplementing specific or multi-vitamins could help if deficient.
  • Switching medications
    If possible, your doctor can adjust certain medication levels or change to a different one to help restore your taste.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco
    Habitual use of these can have long-term health effects on your body, and your sense of taste may only be the beginning.
  • Proper oral care
    See your dentist for your regular checkups on top of routine brushing, flossing, and antibacterial mouth rinse to eliminate the bad breath and sour taste.

Sometimes, the cause of a sour tongue is out of your hands. And sometimes, your sense of taste will return to normal after you've taken all of your medication, delivered your baby, or managed your GERD. But you and your dentist can do your part to eliminate the sour taste by caring for your teeth, gums, tongue, and mouth. Which, is actually pretty sweet.

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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