Dysgeusia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Taste and its role in the enjoyment of food is something that many of us take for granted. However, a taste disorder can have a negative effect on our quality of life and nutrition. It may also indicate an underlying problem.

Symptoms of Dysgeusia

Tongue dysgeusia is a taste disorder that manifests as a lingering, unpleasant sensation in the mouth. People who experience a taste disturbance often report having a frequent foul, rancid, metallic, or salty taste perception. The condition has been attributed to physiologic changes in the body, certain diseases, vitamin deficiencies, prescription medications and cancer treatment.

Causes of Dysgeusia

Here are a few causes of this taste disorder that may help your dentist or physician identify the root of the problem and hopefully get you back to enjoying food.

  • Medication. A metallic sensation is perhaps the most common taste quality reported and is often attributed to medication use. More than 200 medications are known to cause taste disorders, yet this side effect is often overlooked in drug development, an article in Toxicological Sciences states.
  • Cancer treatment. Dysgeusia can occur as a side effect of chemotherapy and radiation. It is more common in the treatment of head and neck cancers, though it can appear with treatment of any type of cancer. According to the Society of Sensory Professionals, cancer treatment can interfere with the ability to taste or smell food temporarily or permanently. Doctors should address these effects to prevent malnutrition and weight loss.
  • Diabetes. Another instance of tongue dysfunction is in people with undiagnosed diabetes, especially in cases of adult onset or type 2 diabetes mellitus. Referred to as "diabetic tongue" by an article in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, dysgeusia can be an early symptom of the disease. Researchers found altered taste was not constant throughout the day, so it could be attributed to fluctuations in blood sugar levels and identified as an early clinical sign for diabetes.
  • Other causes. The previous study also recognized that other systemic health problems, such as zinc deficiencies, dry mouth and autoimmune diseases could also cause the taste changes. Other causes range from aging and physiological changes, such as pregnancy and menopause. In addition, 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.

Treatment for Dysgeusia

Treatment for taste dysfunctions often include addressing the underlying problem when possible. The condition may also be self-limiting and resolve on its own. However, when it occurs due to systemic issues or the use of necessary medications, a taste disturbance can be managed through nutritional, dietary and palliative treatments.

To avoid inadequate nutrition and unhealthy ingredients to enhance taste, dietary counseling about flavoring agents and spices is important. The counseling explains the importance of avoiding additional salt and sugar, which can increase cavity risk and contribute to high blood pressure.

In instances of dry mouth, your dentist may recommend a daily mouth rinse like Colgate Total Daily Repair. Dry mouth can cause taste disturbances, but it also contributes to tooth decay due to the lack of saliva. This mouthwash is alcohol free and helps repair daily damage to teeth, restores natural calcium and repairs weakened enamel.

Finally, it is important to seek regular dental visits for preventive oral health care. Along with routine home care and a healthy lifestyle, these tactics may help diminish the degree of dysgeusia and make you more excited about sitting around the dinner table.

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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As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.