Everybody gets a bad taste in their mouth now and then, and it usually goes away when you brush your teeth or rinse your mouth.
However, the bad taste can sometimes linger due to an underlying cause. Whatever the cause, a bad taste in your mouth can ruin your appetite, potentially leading to nutritional deficiencies and other problems.
If the bad taste persists after a day, consult your doctor to determine what’s causing it. Also, inform them of changes in your appetite or sense of smell.
Continue reading to learn more about the causes of bad breath and how to keep your mouth tasting fresh.
What Constitutes a Bad Taste?
A bad taste is defined differently by each individual. For some, the metallic taste in their mouth is unpleasant, and others may find it bitter or foul, depending on the cause. You might even notice a loss of taste during meals.
Why do I have a Bad Aftertaste?
Food and other particles are detected by your taste buds, which signal your brain via nerves. Over 10,000 taste buds are born with you, and they can detect five different sensations: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. A foul, salty, rancid, or metallic taste sensation in your mouth can affect anyone.
A sour flavor can be caused by malfunctioning any parts involved in tasting, including the taste buds themselves, the nerves that carry the message, and your brain itself. Medication, vitamins, or other culprits that release bad-tasting chemicals into your saliva or mouth can also cause it.
If any sound frightening, rest assured that the cause of your unpleasant taste is usually benign (harmless) unless it occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Causes of a Bad Taste in the Mouth that are Oral
Dental Issues and Poor Hygiene
Dental hygiene issues are the most common causes of bad taste in your mouth. Gingivitis, which causes a bad taste in your mouth, can be caused by not flossing and brushing regularly.
Infections, abscesses, and even wisdom tooth eruption can cause bad taste.
Other signs of dental issues include:
- bad breath
- bleeding, red, or swollen gums
- sensitive teeth
- loose teeth
Most common dental problems can be avoided by flossing and brushing your teeth regularly. It is also critical to visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and exams. You can supplement your dental routine with an antibacterial mouth rinse for added protection.
Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, occurs when your salivary glands do not produce enough saliva. This can leave your mouth feeling dry and sticky.
Saliva inhibits the growth of bacteria in your mouth and aids in the removal of food particles. When you don’t have enough saliva, you may experience a bad taste in your mouth due to extra bacteria and leftover food.
Dry mouth can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications
- stuffy nose causing mouth breathing
- nerve damage
- tobacco use
- autoimmune conditions
- If you have dry mouth, consult your doctor to determine what’s causing it. Most people who suffer from dry mouth find relief through lifestyle changes, medication adjustments, and over-the-counter or prescription mouth rinses.
Thrush in the Mouth
Thrush is a yeast infection that thrives in warm, moist environments, such as your mouth. Oral thrush can affect anyone, but it is more common in babies, older adults, and people with suppressed immune systems.
Oral thrush can also result in:
- bumps of white
- redness, burning, or pain
- swallowing difficulties
- dry mouth
Oral thrush can be avoided by regularly flossing, brushing, and rinsing your mouth. Also, try to limit your sugar intake because yeast feeds on it.
Even if you have no other symptoms, call your doctor if you have white spots in your mouth.
Infections in your system, particularly viral infections, can affect your sense of taste. Tonsillitis, sinusitis, colds, and middle ear infections all hurt your sense of taste and smell.
The following are additional signs of a respiratory infection:
- sore throat
Viral infections usually resolve themselves within one to two weeks. Once the infection has cleared up, the bad taste should go away.
Hepatitis B is a viral liver infection. A bitter taste in your mouth is one of its early symptoms.
Other early hepatitis B symptoms include:
- bad breath, appetite loss
- Fever of low intensity
- diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
Hepatitis B is a potentially fatal infection. Contact your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms or believe you have been exposed to the virus.
Medication for hepatitis C can impair your sense of smell and give you a bad taste in your mouth. When you finish the medication, the taste should go away.
Changes in Hormones
Early pregnancy hormonal fluctuations can cause a variety of sensory changes. You might suddenly crave foods you’ve never craved before or find certain smells repulsive. Many women also report having bad taste in their mouth, usually metallic, during their first trimester. While the taste may be unpleasant, it is usually harmless and will disappear later in your pregnancy. Find out more about the metallic taste in your mouth while pregnant.
Women going through or about to go through menopause frequently complain about having a bitter taste in their mouths. This is usually caused by dry mouth, a common menopausal symptom.
Burning mouth syndrome is another possible cause of a bitter taste in your mouth during menopause. This is a rare condition, but your chances of developing it rise after menopause due to lower estrogen levels. Aside from a bitter taste in your mouth, you may also experience a burning sensation near the tip of your tongue. These symptoms may appear and disappear.
Talk to your doctor about treatment options if you’re going through or about to go through menopause and have bad taste in your mouth. Hormone replacement therapy may be beneficial for some women.
Bile and acid reflux symptoms are similar and can occur concurrently. They are caused by either bile, a digestive fluid produced by your liver, or stomach acid moving up through your esophagus.
Both can cause a sour taste in your mouth, as well as:
- upper abdominal pain
- nausea and vomiting
- coughing and hoarseness
Consult your doctor if you have frequent bile or acid reflux symptoms. A variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to help. Acid reflux can sometimes progress to gastroesophageal reflux disease, a chronic condition.
Some home care tips include avoiding foods that cause heartburn, eating smaller meals, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Pharmaceuticals and Other Substances
Vitamins and nutritional supplements
Many vitamins and supplements, especially in large quantities, can cause a metallic taste in your mouth.
The following are some of the most common vitamins and supplements that can cause a metallic taste:
- multivitamins or prenatal vitamins that contain heavy metals
- vitamin D
- zinc, which can also cause nausea
Many over-the-counter and prescription medications can leave your mouth with a bitter or metallic taste.
OTC medications that can impair your taste include:
The following prescription medications can cause an unusual taste in your mouth:
- cardiac medications
- diabetes medications
- HIV protease inhibitors
- oral contraceptives
- anti-seizure agents
Chemotherapy medications are used to treat cancer in a variety of ways. Chemotherapy treatment usually consists of a combination of these, many of which can cause a metallic or sour taste.
Radiation therapy, especially when used to treat head and neck cancers, can also cause a metallic taste.
Any unusual tastes caused by chemotherapy or radiation usually disappear once treatment is completed.
Taste buds are linked to nerves in the brain. A bad taste in your mouth can be caused by anything that affects these nerves.
The following conditions may have an impact on your brain’s nerves:
- Tumors of the brain
- head injury
Some medications used to treat these neurological conditions can cause an abnormal taste in your mouth, which usually goes away once the underlying condition is treated.
Diagnosis of Bad Taste in the Mouth
For various reasons, determining the source of this symptom is critical. A bad taste in your mouth could be an early warning sign of an undiagnosed health problem or an issue with your medication dosage. It will not only help you understand the best course of action, but it will also help you avoid problems such as overeating salty or sweet foods to mask unpleasant flavors.
A visit to a dental or medical professional for diagnosis is recommended. Many causes of bad taste aren’t serious, but some are. It’s a good idea to let the professionals rule them out so you can rest easy. Taste disorders may necessitate the services of an otolaryngologist, also known as an ENT specialist (ear, nose, throat, head, and neck).
The following diagnoses are possible:
- Examine your ears, nose, and throat
- Dental examination
- Professionally conducted taste test
- Examine your medical and dental histories
Treatment for Bad Taste in the Mouth
Because there is no single cause of a lingering bad taste in your mouth, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Remember that any solution that directly treats your bad taste is unlikely to treat the underlying cause, so it’s critical to understand why you’re experiencing an unpleasant taste. The more you understand the root cause, the more effectively you can treat the problem!
Treatment for a Persistent Bad Taste:
Maintain your oral health by brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes and cleaning between your teeth once a day with a flossing device, water flosser, or interdental brush. Schedule regular checkups with your dental and medical professionals to prevent and catch problems early.
Check that you take your medication or vitamins at the correct dosage as prescribed or indicated on the packaging.
If you’re worried about a persistent bad taste in your mouth, remember that it’s not always a sign of a serious medical problem. It’s a good idea to make an appointment with a professional to get an accurate diagnosis and current treatment. You now have a good understanding of how your taste works and what can cause it to change.
How to Avoid a Bad Taste in your Mouth?
The following lifestyle habits can help prevent bad breath:
- brushing and flossing the teeth regularly
- staying away from tobacco products
- making dental checkups a habit
- eating a nutritious diet
- drinking plenty of water
- reducing caffeine intake
- reducing alcohol intake
- reducing sugar intake
Complications that could Arise
A bad taste in the mouth, if left unresolved and depending on the underlying cause, can lead to several complications, including:
- excessive weight loss
- the spread of cancer
- the spread of infection
- food poisoning
What Illness Causes a Strange Taste in the Mouth?
A strange metallic taste in your mouth is probably due to gum diseases, such as gingivitis or periodontitis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adults aged 30 and up have gum disease.
Why has my Taste Evolved?
Taste bud changes can occur naturally as we age or be caused by an underlying medical condition. Upper respiratory viral and bacterial infections are common causes of taste loss. Furthermore, many commonly prescribed medications can cause a change in the function of the taste buds.
If you have an unexplained bad taste, consult your doctor to determine the underlying cause.
Make sure to tell your doctor during your appointment:
all medications and supplements you are taking, and any other symptoms you are experiencing, even if they appear unrelated.
any previously diagnosed medical conditions
Meanwhile, mouthwash or chewing gum may provide temporary relief until you see your doctor.