Metallic Taste is one amongst the five primary senses that a human being possesses. Taste is perceived by the taste buds that are located on the tongue and by sending unique signals to the brain, helps us distinguish between various tastes. Without proper taste perception, a person wouldn’t be able to distinguish between different tastes that food items have. Not only does gustatory impairment cause problem in perceiving the taste of different food items, it also creates a metallic taste in the mouth, a problem often referred to as dysgeusia.
What is Metallic Taste?
A metallic taste in the mouth, also known as the metal mouth is taste disorder that can occur due to a number of reasons, some simple while others quite serious. The occurrence of this weird taste may be intermittent or may last for a long period, depending on the causal factor and the care taken. In certain cases, the issue can get solved on its own or with minor changes in habits, while in other cases, expert medical opinion and treatment is necessary to achieve a complete cure.
Metallic Taste in Mouth and Tongue arises due to disorder of nerves that control taste sensation (taste buds). This condition of altered sense of taste is medically known as dysgeusia or parageusia. Problem of metallic taste in tongue and mouth is often experienced by a pregnant woman, low blood pressure, anemia, a sinus patient, Tuberculosis, also a cancer patient who has went through chemo therapy.
Possible Causes of Metallic Taste in the Mouth
Metal mouth can be caused due to a number of reasons, some quite simple, while others can be quite serious and need proper treatment to avoid further complications. Listed below are some of the main factors that can lead to metal mouth:
Lack of Oral Hygiene:
If you do not follow a healthy oral care regimen, it is quite possible that you will have metal mouth, sooner or later. Regular brushing and flossing are imperative if you want to ensure good oral health. In absence of good oral hygiene, a variety of oral problems like periodontitis, gingivitis, tooth decay and infection, etc. may occur that not only cause metallic mouth but can also lead to bad breath, swollen gums, etc. Consulting with your dentist about your oral care routine can help you prevent these diseases and eliminate the problem of metal mouth.
Regular smokers, as well as heavy caffeine and alcohol consumers, may also often face a bad taste in the mouth.
Pregnant women are often reported to have a metallic mouth, particularly during the first three months of pregnancy. However, it must be noted that metal mouth doesn’t necessarily occur in all pregnant women and the reason for its occurrence isn’t particularly known. Different women have attributed the weird taste in their mouth to different causes. Some think that it occurs due to the rapid hormonal changes that occur during the early phase of pregnancy, while some believe that it is due to the enhanced perception of the senses.
Intake of certain medicines could also be the reason behind the metal mouth. These medicines include antibiotics like clarithromycin, metronidazole; glaucoma medications like methazolamide; blood pressure medicines like captopril; osteoporosis medications; lithium-containing medicines; antidepressants, antifungal medicines, antihistamines, steroid medicines, etc. If you are taking any of these medicines, it is quite normal to have a metal mouth. Though you can consult a doctor about this, this is nothing serious as the taste will recede once the medication is stopped.
Radiation and Chemotherapy:
People undergoing cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy may also feel a metallic taste in their mouth. This type of metal mouth is often referred to as chemo mouth and occurs when radiation or chemotherapy is applied to the neck, mouth, head, and surrounding regions. This occurs mainly because the salivary glands and taste buds are damaged during the process and the normal taste senses are impaired. It often recommended that patients undergoing these treatments consume zinc, Vitamin D, etc. to prevent taste impairment.
Supplements or Vitamin Overdose:
Taking multivitamin supplements that contain zinc, copper, chromium, etc. on a regular basis can be the cause of a metal mouth. Moreover, prenatal vitamins, calcium supplements, and iron can, too, cause a metallic taste in your mouth. This taste gradually recedes after the digestive system successfully absorbs the vitamins and minerals. It has also been noted that an excessive consumption of Vitamin D on a regular basis can also be the causal factor of metal mouth. However, since this occurs only due to very high consumption (more than 10,000 IUs), the occurrence of such an incidence is quite rare.
Those suffering from sinus issues may feel a metal-like taste in the mouth. This happens because of the fact that sinus impacts the olfactory+ senses of a person, thereby affecting the gustatory senses of the person. That is the reason why people with sinus problems often feel that they have a weird taste in their mouth.
The central nervous system plays an important role in the perception of tastes by the taste buds located on the tongue. If the CNS system is damaged or injured in any way like due to Bell’s palsy or stroke, the CNS fails to send the proper signals to the taste buds for gustation and this results in a weird taste in the mouth which is often considered to be metallic nature.
People who suffer from chronic infections of the ear, otherwise known as otitis media, may have to undergo a surgery of the ear tube or the middle ear to cure the disease. It is during this type of surgery that the Chorda tympani may get injured or damaged. The chorda tympani is a very small structure that lies in the close proximity of the inner ear and controls the gustatory senses of the rear 2/3rd portion of the tongue. The damage of the chorda tympani may lead to impaired taste sensations that may lead to parageusia or metal mouth.
Dementia patients, too, suffer from impaired gustatory senses. This is because of the inefficiency of the brain in sending proper signals to the taste buds at the right time and the lack or abnormality in signals may lead to the feeling of metal mouth.
Kidney failure is another common reason for metal mouth. Due to impaired functionality, the kidney fails to flush out the waste materials from the body which cause lack of appetite, bad breathe or metal mouth.
People with a continuous history of heartburns, gastroesophageal reflux, gastritis, etc. may also often be faced with a problem of metallic taste.
People with common respiratory problems like nasal polyps, allergic rhinitis, cold, etc may also be the causal factor for metallic taste.
Consumption of a food item that a person is allergic to can also be the cause of metal mouth. In fact, metal mouth is a good indication of a food allergy and needs to be discussed with a doctor if a person experiences metal mouth after every intake of a particular food item that he/she may be allergic to.
Hyperparathyroidism is known to affect the level of calcium in the blood flow and also cause a deficiency of Vitamin D. Both these factors are known to be potential causes of metal mouth and hence, the condition can commonly occur in patients suffering from hyperparathyroidism.
Addition of metals like lead, mercury, copper, selenium, aluminum, etc. to the daily diet or via other processes in excess quantities may lead to metal poisoning. Though the human body can usually neutralize excess metals, this may prove ineffective in certain cases like Wilson’s disease, drinking of contaminated water, constant contact with chemicals that contain copper sulfate, etc. Metal on metal hip replacement procedures can also be the reason for a metal mouth. This can be cured only by following a chelation therapy in which the heavy metals are selectively removed from the blood.
Insufficient Water Intake:
People who fall short of the daily water requirement may often have a metal mouth. However, it must be understood that the water requirement for different people vary somewhat and the ideal amount of water to be taken each day must be decided according to the particular needs of a person and not be guided by the strict formula of 3-4 liters of water per day.
Symptoms Commonly Associated with Metal Mouth
Though it is quite natural for a metal mouth to be an isolated problem, sometimes a metal mouth may be accompanied by other health problems or issues, especially if other ailments are the root cause of the weird taste in the mouth. As such as, a variety of symptoms may be seen in a person facing problems with a metal mouth like the following:
- Bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- Excessive salivation
- Dry mouth
- Reduced appetite
- Poor olfactory perception
- Running nose
- Inflamed tonsils
- Fever, headache, sore throat, cough, fatigue, pain and ache
- Alterations in facial movement
The symptoms mentioned above aren’t usually indicative of serious complications. However, certain other symptoms accompany metal mouth and these often indicate an underlying condition that requires immediate treatment. A few such symptoms are listed below:
- Problem in swallowing food
- Fever higher than 101° F.
- Slurred speech
- Partial or complete paralysis of the face
- Swelling of tongue, lips, and mouth
- Confusion, reduced alertness and consciousness
- Breathing problems like labored breathing, difficulty breathing, choking, wheezing, etc.
- If one or more of the above symptoms are seen along with metal mouth, do not delay in seeing a doctor for your symptoms.
Questions that you Need to Ask Yourself
If you do not have any symptoms that may indicate a serious health issue that has been causing metal mouth, you may not see a doctor immediately and try to solve the problem yourself by resorting to a number of easy home remedies and lifestyle and dietary changes. However, before you choose a particular remedy, it is important that you ask yourself the following questions:
- When did you feel the change of taste in your mouth?
- Has there been any change in the appearance and texture of your tongue?
- Have there been any cases of tongue swelling, lesions or mouth sores along with the metallic taste?
- Do you have a smoking habit?
- Do you take any medications that may have lead to the metal mouth?
- Have you had recent contact with pesticides, harsh chemicals or taken excessively spicy or hot food?
- Have there been other associated health issues in the recent times?
Once you have the correct and comprehensive answer to these questions, you may be able to determine the cause of the change of taste in your mouth. These answers may also help your doctor determine the appropriate course of action.
Diagnosis of the Causal Factors
Since metallic taste in the mouth is usually the result of an ailment or a changing body condition, your doctor will usually recommend a visit to an otolaryngologist or ask you to undertake some physical tests to determine the cause of the metal mouth. The physical tests generally include
- A thorough examination of the throat, nose and the ears
- An oral checkup to determine your oral health
- A gustatory test that will determine possible taste disorders
- An overall review of your medical history
The gustatory test may involve a number of simple tests that try to determine your taste perception according to the varying taste of food items. These tests will be able to throw light on any taste disorders that may have affected a person’s tasting abilities.
If the tests mentioned above do not reveal a satisfactory cause of the metallic taste or the doctor assumes that the change in taste perception is due to a nerve damage or impairment, he may ask you to undertake an X-ray. Similar tests may be suggested for possible sinus issues.
Home Remedies to Treat Metallic Taste
- Baking Soda
To do away with the metallic taste, you can use a mix of toothpaste, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda to brush your teeth. This mixture can be used instead of toothpaste alone to eliminate the bad taste whenever it happens.
- Salt Rinse
Mix one table spoon of salt in about 8 oz. of water to create a saltwater solution that can be effectively used to neutralize the pH level in your mouth and eliminate the weird taste in your mouth.
- Vinegar Marinated Food Items
Tend to have food items that are marinated in vinegar quite often. These may include simple things like pickles. Having such food items quite often can help in the excess secretion of saliva that will help to wash off any bad taste that occurs.
- Citrus Fruits
Make sure that you include a lot of citrus fruits in your daily diet. Fruits such as lemon and orange are known to boost saliva secretion, thus helping in fighting off germs and bacteria. This helps improve overall oral hygiene naturally and also cure metal mouth with ease.
- Herbal Teas
Taking herbal tea on a daily basis may also be considered an effective solution to the problem. One may also drink milk mixed with honey to help cure the problem.
Fresh yogurt is alkaline in nature and thus, increases saliva secretion which aids in maintaining better oral hygiene.
- Oil Pulling
Popularly used as an Ayurvedic treatment, oil pulling can be helpful in thoroughly cleaning toxins present in your mouth. Practice the procedure early in the morning every day with pure coconut oil as it can help get rid of the bad taste.
Foods Items that People with Metal Mouth can Enjoy
Since people with a metal mouth find it very difficult to take usual food items due to the bad taste in the mouth, regular eating practices are highly affected. People often start lacking in nutritious food and thus, may become weak. Mentioned below are a few food items that people with a metal mouth can consume without the feeling of a weird taste:
Smoothies and Fruit Juices:
Fresh vegetables and fruits, fruit juices, sherbet, fruit smoothies, etc. can usually be tolerated by people who suffer from metal mouth. Not only that, adding juices of citrus fruits like lemon, lime or orange, or orange marmalade to a variety of food items like salads, meat sauces, salsa, soups, vegetables, etc. can change the flavor significantly and help cover the metallic taste, thereby making them much more palatable than ordinary food.
Anemia: Problem of anemia arises when there is lack of red blood cells in body, which can also cause fatigue, pale skin, weakness, dizziness, headache and metallic taste in mouth.
Dairy, Eggs, Fish, Beans, Peanut Butter:
People with metal mouth cannot usually savor poultry or meat items. To complement the lack of protein intake, people can switch to food items like dairy products, eggs, fish, beans, peanut butter, etc. which can be consumed without much problem. Frozen or cold dairy products like frozen yogurt, ice cream, chilled milk, etc. are best in such situations.
Spicy food items not only taste good, but they also help eliminate the metallic tang from the mouth by clearing the taste buds. However, excess spices may affect your digestive processes and hence, should be taken within certain limits.
There are other causes also which can make one experience metallic taste in mouth. Those are thyroid disorders, nerve damage, glossitis, allergies, systemic lupus, herpes simplex, herpes zoster, Parkinson diseases, etc.
How to Get Rid of Metallic Taste in Mouth & Tongue
Apart from adopting one or more remedies to cure the problem of metal mouth, you may also take some initiative towards preventing the occurrence of metal mouth. In fact, very simple steps may go a long way in keeping a check on metal mouth:
Maintain your oral hygiene at all times. Brush your teeth atleast twice daily and floss on a daily basis. See a dentist on a regular basis.
- Quit smoking completely.
- Try sugar-free mints or gums.
- Chew on condiments like clove or cinnamon.
- Try to stay hydrated by drinking ample water (except where the cause is renal failure)
- Marinate your food properly or add different spices for different flavors.
- If you think that your prenatal vitamin is the cause, ask your doctor for an alternative.
- Avoid using metallic utensils, cookware, dishes etc.
- Make sure that the water that you drink is free of unwanted metal particles.
- Make sure that pesticides do not make way into your food.
Metal mouth may not be a serious problem, especially if it is caused due to poor dietary or lifestyle practices. But if the metallic taste is due another ailment that impairs the functionality of the taste buds or the nerves that connect the tongue to the hemispheres of the brain or CNS, it would be a matter of serious concern that begs proper diagnosis and treatment by an expert physician. So, do not forget to consult your doctor if a sour or metallic taste in the mouth is bothering you.
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