What Is That Metallic Taste In Mouth?

Dr. Reza Written by Dr. Reza Khazaie

Eating and enjoying delicious food, whether it be a greasy, chargrilled cheeseburger or a fine, delicate dessert from a fancy restaurant, is one of the pleasures of life that many people find enjoyable. At the very least, most people can appreciate the ability to choose what suits their taste buds and what doesn’t.

However, not everyone is so lucky. It’s easy to take our everyday senses, including our sense of taste for granted. Many people also suffer from dysgeusia, also known as parageusia, which is a distortion in a person’s sense of taste. One of the most common ways dysgeusia manifests itself is with an unpleasant, metallic taste in the mouth.

Taste disorders, including a persistent metallic taste in the mouth, are very common. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), More than 200,000 people visit a physician for chemosensory problems such as taste disorders each year, and many more go unreported.

11 Reasons for A Bad Metallic Taste In Mouth

There are many reasons your mouth might taste like what seems to be old coins. In most cases, a metallic taste in the mouth is not typical and should indicate to you that something is awry in your mouth or your body at large.

1. Exposure to chemicals

Exposure to dangerous, taste-altering chemicals is a rare but noteworthy potential cause of a metallic taste in the mouth. Inhaling high levels of these chemicals, be it from paint dust or metalworking fumes, can produce a metallic taste in an affected person’s mouth. If you or someone you know is exhibiting symptoms of lead or mercury poisoning, such as a metallic taste in the mouth, or may have been exposed to lead or mercury, contact a doctor immediately.

Lead and mercury exposure can seriously damage a person’s nervous system and is particularly detrimental for children whose bodies and minds are still in the developmental phase.

2. Dementia or brain injury

The psychological impact of dementia or brain injury, such as stress, anxiety, or depression, can also affect taste perception and lead to a bad taste in the mouth.

Dementia and brain injury can affect a person’s eating habits, leading to a diet high in certain foods that may contribute to a bad taste sensation. For example, consuming excessive amounts of sugary or fatty foods can alter taste perception.

Also, dementia and certain types of brain injuries can affect brain regions responsible for processing taste and smell. For example, damage to the temporal lobe or frontal lobe can alter how your brain interprets taste signals. The nerves that dictate what a person “tastes” are directly connected to the parietal lobe of the brain which is responsible for making sense of the body’s sensory inputs. When the parietal lobe is damaged or destroyed, abnormalities can occur, such as a persistent metallic taste in the mouth.

Individuals with dementia or brain injuries often take medications that can cause dry mouth (xerostomia) or alter taste perception as a side effect. These medications may include antipsychotics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and others.

3. Pregnancy or menopause

Another culprit for strange tastes in the mouth is the action of hormones in the body. This is especially pronounced in women during pregnancy and again after menopause. During pregnancy, women can experience changes in what things taste like and their own food preferences. According to doctors, that’s how a woman’s body obtains specific nutrients and will often go away after pregnancy. Fluctuations in estrogen during pregnancy and menopause may also be responsible for the persistent metallic taste many women experience.

4. Chemotherapy

Many cancer patients (as much as half) undergoing chemotherapy and other powerful anti-cancer treatments may experience dysgeusia as well. Food and beverages for chemo patients may become unpalatable due to changes in their sense of taste because of their treatment. Particularly notorious chemotherapy drugs known for causing a metallic taste for chemo patients include nitrogen mustard, vincristine, cisplatin, and cyclophosphamide.

5. Head cold or sinus infection

Severe colds and sinus infections are common reasons your mouth might taste like old pennies. While they don’t directly affect your mouth, for the most part, colds and sinus infections affect your sense of smell which plays a huge role in how you might perceive taste.

Upper respiratory infections can often have the same effect. Even allergies can affect a person’s sense of smell and, therefore, change their sense of taste.

Once the cold, infection or allergies are dealt with, the unpleasant, metallic taste usually disappears as well.

6. Medications

Many medications can distort your sense of taste. Antibiotics, glaucoma medication, blood pressure medicine, and osteoporosis prescriptions, to name a few categories of medication, are known to cause a metallic taste in the mouths of patients taking these drugs.

Like other drug-induced side effects, the metallic taste will usually disappear after you stop taking the offending medication in question.

7. Diabetes

Diabetes is linked to dysfunctional taste and taste disorders. A persistent metallic taste in the mouth is one sign of diabetic ketoacidosis. Furthermore, people with diabetes are known to have a higher risk of developing periodontal disease, dry mouth, and other oral health disorders that may contribute to unpleasant tastes in the mouths of diabetic patients.

8. Kidney problems

When your kidneys begin to deteriorate and fail, a condition known as uremia can occur. Normal, healthy kidneys act as the body’s filter and help remove dangerous substances such as nitrogenous waste and urea.

However, with a weak or failing kidney, these hazardous wastes are allowed to build up in the bloodstream. Uremia can cause food and drinks to taste metallic.

9. Oral thrush

Oral thrush is a common fungal infection of the tongue and mouth characterized by creamy white lesions on the tongue and lining of the oral cavity.

One of the oral thrush symptoms is secondary burning mouth syndrome which can cause dysgeusia and a metallic taste in the mouth. Of course, the visible white lesions are often a good sign in themselves that something is not right in your mouth.

10. Dry mouth

Another common cause of unpleasant taste in the mouth is dry mouth or xerostomia. Dry mouth is a pervasive side effect of many medications and could be to blame for the unpleasant taste. That’s because dry mouth is also linked to poor dental and oral hygiene.

A dry mouth portends a lack of saliva, which is crucial for controlling the growth and proliferation of bacteria in the mouth. Your saliva acts as a natural cocktail of antimicrobial chemicals and substances. Furthermore, saliva mechanically washes biofilm off of the teeth and gums.

When saliva production is compromised or inadequate, oral hygiene is compromised, leading to various oral health problems, such as tooth decay and periodontal disease, which are all associated with a metallic taste.

11. Poor oral hygiene

Poor oral hygiene and the resulting poor oral health are by far the most common reasons for a bad taste in the mouth. Whether it be tooth decay, periodontal disease, dental abscesses, or another oral disorder, problems in the oral cavity will often literally leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Many, if not most, dental and oral health problems begin with inadequate dental hygiene and end with good dental hygiene habits.

Periodontal gum disease is one such example that affects millions of Americans. Periodontal disease is known to cause a metallic taste in the mouth, along with halitosis and other unpleasant side effects of bacteria directly attacking gingival and periodontal tissues. In fact, patients with periodontal disease are tasting decay, which you can sometimes perceive to be metallic. Bleeding from the gums as a result of gingivitis or periodontitis can also give patients a metallic taste. That’s because blood itself is incredibly rich in hemoglobin-containing iron.

If you persistently have the taste of blood in your mouth, something is wrong. Set up an appointment with a doctor or dentist right away to address issues with your sense of taste, especially a metallic taste, as it could point directly to an oral infection or another underlying health issue.