Parageusia or dysgeusia is a type of taste disorder in which, an unpleasant or metallic taste develops in the mouth suddenly or over a prolonged period. The olfactory sensory neurons and your taste buds control your sense of taste. When you eat something, the nerve endings send information from the taste buds to the brain. The human brain then identifies the specific taste. Many factors can affect this system and cause a distortion of the sense of taste and results in metallic taste in mouth.
An unpleasant and awful metallic taste in the mouth may be caused due to drugs and medications, chemotherapy, sinus, poor oral health, dry mouth and so on. Such a condition hampers the appetite as well as water intake. Therefore, it has a negative impact on the nutritional status of a person and may lead to weight loss. (1)
Causes of Metallic Taste in Mouth
There are several factors that can contribute to develop metallic taste in your mouth. Now, we discuss what causes metallic taste in the mouth:
Drugs or Medications
This is the most common cause of a metallic taste in mouth and throat. Medications affect the salivation, taste and smell, which further cause a change in the food and fluid intake. Studies have found that more than 250 medications are associated with disturbances in taste and smell. Distortion of the sense of taste has often been a side-effect of drugs. Various medications damage the peripheral chemosensory system, that is, taste sensation. Scientific studies have also observed that many drugs diminish the pleasantness of the food by altering the taste and flavors. (2)
Here is a list of drugs that can cause a metallic taste in the mouth:
- Cardiac medications- Anti-hypertensives, statins, diuretics, antiarrhythmics
- Endocrine medications- Thyroid medication
- Neurologic medications- CNS stimulants, Anti-Parkinson’s medicines, muscle relaxants, medicines for migraine
- Psychotropics- Antidepressants, anxiolytics, mood stabilizers, anti-histamines
Evidence-based studies have indicated that approximately 86% cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy have reported taste changes. Dysgeusia is the most frequent problem in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Chemotherapy agents come in contact with the taste receptors directly in the mouth. This causes a direct insult to the taste cell receptors. These drugs cause damage to the taste cells by:
- Reduction of the number of normal cell receptors
- Interruption of neural coding
- Alteration of cell structure
The turnover rate of taste bud cells in normal human beings is 10 days. But, during chemotherapy the turnover rate increases, and this kills the taste bud cells, thus leading to taste alterations. (3)
Dry Mouth or Xerostomia
Dry mouth is implicated in the development of taste alterations. A drop in the level of secretion of the saliva can alter the quantity of chemicals released from the foods. This causes changes in the taste.
Sinus problems can cause dryness of the mouth, which leads to taste alterations and metallic taste in the mouth. Furthermore, your sense of smell is linked to your sense of taste. Anything that damages your sense of smell, will have an impact on your taste buds.
When we eat food, the aroma of the food activates the sense of smell via a channel that connects the roof of the throat to the nose. Nasal congestion due to sinus infection blocks this channel and thus, aroma of the food is unable to reach the nose. This causes loss of taste and alteration in taste. However, this problem can be solved once a sinus issue is treated completely.
Various infections, if not treated on time, can lead to metallic taste in the mouth. These infections include:
- Oral infection
- Middle ear infection
- Sinus infection
A dental infection known as Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative gingivitis can cause taste alteration and metallic taste in the mouth. This can be caused due to improper oral hygiene practices. A correct treatment of the gums can reduce gingival inflammation and the metallic taste may subside.
Surgery of the ear or middle ear infections may cause damage to chorda tympani, which leads to metallic taste in the mouth. The chorda tympani nerve controls taste in the anterior two-thirds of the tongue on both sides. This facial nerve runs through the middle ear and transfers taste messages to the brain. Any damage to such an important facial nerve can be responsible for taste distortion. (4)
During the first trimester, many pregnant women report taste alteration or metallic taste in the mouth. The reason behind this may be hormonal changes during early pregnancy. The gustatory function decreases during the early stage of pregnancy, which can lead to dysgeusia. (5)
Signs and Symptoms of Metallic Taste in The Mouth
A distortion in the sense of taste is the only symptom. However, some people with a metallic taste in mouth, also have an altered sense of smell. If you experience a metallic or bad taste in the mouth for a long period of time, then you should see a doctor. Your doctor may prescribe you medications that will help in the treatment of the metallic taste in your mouth. Many a times, metallic taste is the side-effect of various drugs or due to poor oral health. By solving the underlying problem, you can automatically get rid of this unpleasant metallic taste.
Prevention from Metallic Taste
There is little you can do to prevent a metallic taste in the mouth. If such a taste distortion is due to medications, it’s better to speak to your doctor and ask him for an alternative medicine. Below mentioned are some ways that can help you in preventing metallic taste in your mouth:
Chewing gum and mints increase salivation in the mouth, which helps in preventing taste alterations. Sugar-free gum also helps in maintaining oral hygiene and thus, it reduces the risk of taste distortion. Individuals who are on medications and drugs for a prolonged period can try gums and mints after asking their doctor.
Smoking is also a cause of the metallic taste in your mouth. Continuous exposure to cigarette smoke causes build-up of toxins that can alter taste sensation. Besides damaging other organs of the body, smoking cigarette also has a negative impact on the taste buds. Individuals with taste distortion must try to avoid smoking.
Brush Your Teeth Twice Daily
Dental caries and poor oral health are a cause of metallic taste in mouth. Brushing your teeth twice will help in killing the bacteria and further prevent their multiplication in the mouth. Hence, this is a useful and simple technique for those who want to prevent taste distortion and dysgeusia.
Drinking plenty of water can prevent dryness of the mouth, a cause of taste alteration. However, one should keep in mind that drinking plain water is beneficial and one should not replace it with sugar-laden beverages.
Switch to Non-Metallic Cookware
Use of non-metallic cookware while cooking and storing food in non-metallic containers may help in alleviating such a problem. Metal cookware can leach while cooking and this may cause a metallic taste in the mouth. Choose stainless steel cookware or earthen pots for cooking.
How to Get Rid of Metallic Taste in Mouth
Here are some home remedies to restore the taste buds and to get rid of metallic taste in the mouth:
Salt Water Rinse
Salt water rinse plays a crucial role in maintaining the oral hygiene. It reduces the growth of the harmful bacteria in the mouth and neutralizes the acid that causes loss of tooth enamel. An improvement in the oral health helps one in getting rid of the awful metallic taste.
- Stir one tablespoon of salt in one glass of lukewarm water. Rinse your mouth with this water 2 to 3 times in a day, especially before going to bed.
Use of baking soda is a fantastic natural remedy to treat dysgeusia. Baking soda regulates the pH balance, neutralizes the acid and effectively eliminates metallic taste. There are two ways in which you can use baking soda:
- Sprinkle a pinch of baking soda on your toothbrush when you brush your mouth. Repeat this daily
- Mix half teaspoon baking soda in one glass of lukewarm water. Rinse your mouth with this water daily.
Brush Your Tongue
Use a tongue cleaner or brushing your tongue when you brush your teeth can help you in getting rid of metallic taste. It helps to scrape away bacteria and plaque that may contribute to metallic taste in mouth. Brushing your tongue also helps in the removal of dead cells and food debris that otherwise get accumulated and coat the tongue. This can clog your taste buds and alter your taste sensation.
Lemon is a reliable source of vitamin C and citric acid. These two substances help in breaking down the metallic taste in mouth. It further fights against the bacteria, which may be a cause of taste alteration. Here are diverse ways to use lemon to enhance your taste buds:
- Mix lemon juice extracted from half a lemon in 1 glass of lukewarm water. Stir well and rinse your mouth 2 to 3 times daily.
- You can also sprinkle some salt on a piece of lemon. Rub this lemon on your tongue to improve your taste sensations.
- Chewing some lemon leaves can also help you in getting rid of metallic taste.
Certain gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux and gastritis may be the cause of metallic taste in the mouth. In such cases, green tea is a great solution, which can reduce the incidence of metallic taste in the mouth. Green tea is an excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent. It kills bacteria, reduces inflammation and helps in maintaining oral hygiene too. Catechins, a healthy compound present in green tea combats awful metallic taste in the mouth.
- Consuming 1-2 cups of green tea will help individuals with dysgeusia.
- Green tea capsules and green tea extract can also help.
Fennel Seeds & Tea
Chewing fennel seeds improves salivation and taste sensation. It is a good home remedies for metallic taste in mouth. Alternatively, fennel tea can also be used for reducing the impact of medicines on digestive system and taste sensation. Fennel seeds are also the best home remedy for heartburn.
Studies have found that treatment with zinc improves gustatory function and reduces taste alteration. Zinc is an essential trace element, which plays a crucial role in having a well-developed sense of taste. Hence, zinc supplements can be useful for individuals with taste distortion caused by zinc deficiency. (6, 7)
Drink Plenty of Water
Water is the most inexpensive medicine gifted to us by the nature. Drinking water at regular intervals may help you to wash out all the toxins present in the oral cavity. An overload of toxins in the body can alter the taste buds and lead to dysgeusia. Water intake flushes out the toxins and helps in the treatment.
Oil pulling is an Ayurvedic technique that helps in the elimination of toxins and odor-causing bacteria present in the mouth. These toxins and bacteria clog the taste buds, and this results in metallic taste in the mouth. Oil pulling stimulates the taste buds and restores oral health. Here are the steps for oil pulling:
- Put 1 tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil in the mouth
- Swish it around your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes. This helps in the removal of bacteria, which otherwise forms a thin layer on the teeth and damages the oral cavity
- Continue to do so, until the oil in your mouth turns milky and becomes thinner
- After 20 minutes, spit out the oil and rinse your mouth with plain water
- Repeat the same process daily for a month
Note: Do not gargle or swallow the oil, just swish it around your mouth (8)
The active compounds naturally present in cinnamon help in activating the taste buds. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances present in this spice help in getting rid of metallic taste in the mouth. Here are different ways to use cinnamon:
- Mix together 1 teaspoon of honey and cinnamon powder to make a paste. Apply this paste on your tongue and keep it for 10 minutes. Rinse your mouth thoroughly. Repeat this procedure twice a day until you get rid of the metallic taste in your mouth
- Boil 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder in 1 cup of water. Allow it to steep for 2 to 3 minutes. Drink this water 1 to 2 times daily
- Chewing a small stick of cinnamon after meals may also help (9)
Citrus fruits are juicy and completely refreshing. They shift the metallic taste and unpleasant flavor. Besides eating the whole fruit, fruit juices, smoothies and fruit sorbets also activate the taste buds and eliminate the awful taste. People with such a condition can tolerate fruits and juices better as compared to other foods. Adding orange, lemon or lime juice to salads and savory preparations can disguise the metallic taste in the mouth and make the food preparation more palatable.
Peppermint leaves are extremely refreshing, and they possess anti-bacterial properties too. Compounds present in peppermint inhibit the growth of bacteria in the oral cavity, which is a major cause of metallic taste in the mouth. These leaves freshen up your breath and prevent bad odors. Peppermint also helps in relieving gastritis and acid reflux, two possible causes of metallic taste in the mouth. As these underlying causes are treated, metallic taste automatically subsides.
- Chew 4 to 5 fresh peppermint leaves 2 to 3 times daily
- Boil a handful of crushed peppermint leaves in 1 cup of water. Allow it to steep for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain and drink this peppermint tea twice daily
- Add some crushed peppermint leaves to 1 jug of warm water. Cover the jug and allow it to steep for an hour. Strain this water and drink it throughout the day (10)
Maintaining a proper oral hygiene plays a crucial role in the treatment of metallic taste disorders. Accumulation of bacteria in the mouth is the major cause of such an unpleasant taste. Here are some useful tips to prevent the growth of bacteria in the oral cavity:
- Brush your teeth twice a day, in the morning and before you go to bed.
- Flossing and rinsing your mouth are equally important.
- Use a tongue cleaner or brush your teeth daily to inhibit the growth of bacteria and to activate the taste buds.
- Gargle your mouth after each meal.
- Change your toothbrush every 3 months.
- Visit your dentist for a dental check-up at least once a year.
- Limit your intake of refined sugar and sugar-laden products.
- Aerated drinks damage the teeth and overall oral health. Stay away from them
- Eliminate tea and coffee from your diet till the metallic taste problem is solved
- Avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Do not use metallic cookware to cook or store food.
- Chew sugar-free gums to increase the production of saliva in the mouth.
- In case of gastritis and acid reflux, limit your intake of spicy foods.
- Use sugar-free peppermint candies.
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