Why Your Mouth Might Taste Like Metal

Do you have a stale penny taste in your mouth? Dysgeusia, or a modification of taste, is a symptom of many different diseases and conditions. The dysgeusia symptom known as "metal mouth" is also more common than one might think.

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Cleveland Clinic's Department of Family Medicine Chairman Donald Ford, MD, MBA, discusses the causes of and treatments for a metallic aftertaste.

My mouth has a metallic taste, what gives?

Some cancers, untreated diabetes, and kidney or liver disease can all be detected by a metallic aftertaste. These causes, however, are unusual and usually manifest themselves in tandem with other symptoms.

In most cases, the source of that metallic tang is harmless, provided your health is otherwise normal. The cause of a metallic taste in the mouth could be a combination of factors, but Dr. Ford says

A lack of care for one's teeth

Tooth decay, gum disease, and infections can all occur if you don't take care of your teeth and gums by brushing and flossing regularly. Your dentist can prescribe medication to treat these infections.

The infection is gone, and the metal taste is gone too," Dr. Ford says

Medications available only by prescription

The body absorbs the medication, and the metallic taste comes out in the saliva, Dr. Explained by Ford Among these pharmaceuticals are:

  • Treatment with antibiotics like clarithromycin, metronidazole, and tetracycline
  • A medication for gout, known as allopurinol
  • Captopril and other hypertension drugs
  • Psychiatric disorders can be treated with lithium.
  • Glaucoma medication methazolamide
  • Medication for diabetes called metformin

Dry mouth, which is a side effect of many medications including antidepressants, can be the cause of a metallic taste because these drugs also work by closing the taste bud membranes.

Vitamins and medications available without a prescription

A metallic taste may be experienced after taking multivitamins containing heavy metals (such as chromium, copper, and zinc) or after taking zinc lozenges (used for colds). Vitamins, iron, and calcium supplements can all help as well.  

Once your body has finished metabolizing the vitamin or medicine, the aftertaste typically disappears. Alternatively, "make sure you're not taking too much," as Dr. According to Ford,

Infections

Some short-term illnesses can alter your taste buds, leaving you with a metallic aftertaste:

  • Colds
  • Sinusitis
  • Infections of the Nose and Throat

In most cases, the unpleasant flavor will disappear once the infection clears up.

Medical Interventions for Cancer

A variety of changes in taste and smell may occur in patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment, especially for cancers of the head and neck. ”

Zinc and vitamin D may aid in treatment, according to some studies, but more study is needed.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy hormones are to blame; dysgeusia is very common in that time. Cravings for pickles and ice cream are a common symptom of pregnancy, but some expectant mothers report experiencing a metallic or sour taste instead.

Yet, there is cause for optimism. It is common for dysgeusia to be most severe during the first trimester of pregnancy, according to Dr. "So as your pregnancy progresses, the metallic taste should fade," says Ford. ”

Dementia

Dementia patients may experience a more rapid decline in their sense of taste than the general population, due to neurological changes. The medical term for when food suddenly begins to taste different than it usually does is "taste abnormalities." ”

When the part of the brain responsible for taste isn't doing its job, "taste abnormalities can occur," Dr. Explained by Ford

Allergies

Food allergies, especially to things like shellfish or tree nuts, can cause an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth. It's a precursor to anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction. Before an allergic reaction occurs, it is important to discuss treatment options with your doctor if you know or suspect you have a food allergy.

Chemically-induced effects

Some substances, when inhaled at high concentrations, have a metallic taste.

  • When poisoned by insecticides, you may experience a metallic taste in your mouth.
  • The chemical element lead can be found in a variety of places, including water, pottery, and some cosmetics, but it is most commonly found in lead-based paint, paint dust, and soil contaminated by peeling paint.
  • Mercury: Usually linked to fish and other seafood, but also found in construction sites and old thermometers as a toxic metal.

Doctors advise those who have been exposed to these chemicals to seek medical attention right away because of the serious risks they pose. Ford says When the underlying cause is addressed, symptoms like a metallic aftertaste in the mouth typically disappear. ”

Tastes metallic and COVID-19

COVID-19 has long been known to cause a loss of taste and smell, but some patients have also reported a metallic taste.

However, a metallic taste in the mouth caused by COVID-19 may persist for weeks or months after the patient has fully recovered from the virus, as explained by Dr. Ford says

What to Do If You Get a Metallic Taste in Your Mouth

Dr Ford suggests self-help measures to reduce metallic taste.

  1. Keep your mouth healthy by practicing good oral hygiene every day with brushing, flossing, and scraping your tongue.
  2. Keep your fluids up to avoid dry mouth and the accompanying metallic aftertaste.
  3. Metal straws, forks, and water bottles can all contribute to an unpleasant metallic flavor. Alternately, you could use something made of glass, plastic, or ceramic.
  4. Put some baking soda and hot water in a glass and use it as a mouthwash before each meal. It can help keep your mouth at a healthy pH level and eliminate acid, which includes that awful metallic tang.
  5. Quit smoking if you want to improve your health and avoid a potential worsening of the metal taste.
  6. Inhale ice in any form you can find it, from cubes and chips to savory ice pops and unsweetened ice popsicles.
  7. Try some sugar-free gum or mints to freshen your breath.
  8. Consume items that can hide the metallic flavor.
    • Juices from citrus fruits, particularly lemons and limes
    • Pickles and other vinegar-based foods are examples of sour foods.
    • Maple syrup and other sweeteners (though only in moderation).

Don't ignore the underlying cause of the problem, though.

"Don't just try to mask the symptoms if you have a persistent funny taste in your mouth," Dr. Ford urges "Consult a medical professional; they can tell you if your symptoms are indicative of a more serious medical problem and direct you toward treatment options. ”

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