Having a metal taste is a condition that is unpleasant and relatively common. Medically known as dysgeusia, it’s usually not associated with serious health concerns (except in some cases).
Understanding your overall health and knowing when a metallic taste should prompt a visit to a doctor or dentist is an important part of dealing with this condition.
Several things can cause a metallic taste in your mouth, including:
One of the most common causes of having a metallic or otherwise bad taste in the mouth is poor dental hygiene.
In many cases, you can resolve a metallic taste in the mouth by brushing and flossing regularly.
When you fail to do so, dental issues such as gingivitis and periodontitis can arise and cause a foul taste in your mouth.
A dentist visit to deal with any infections and ongoing good dental hygiene can resolve the problem.
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Some things that are good for your health cause unpleasant effects.
Certain supplements and over-the-counter medications cause a metallic taste in the mouth.
This is especially true of supplements that contain heavy minerals such as copper, chromium, and zinc. Many prenatal vitamins, as well as calcium and iron supplements also fall into this category.
Additionally, if you’re taking lozenges or other treatments that contain zinc you could develop a metallic taste in your mouth.
Many prescription medications trigger a metallic taste in the mouth. Some of the most common medications associated with metallic taste include:
Chemotherapy and radiation trigger a metallic taste in the mouth, especially in patients receiving treatment for neck and head cancers. This is sometimes called “chemotherapy mouth” or “chemo mouth.”
Some people claim zinc and vitamin D ease this issue. There is evidence that zinc protects against radiotherapy-induced inflammation of oral and oropharyngeal mucosa.1
Several illnesses and infections can affect taste and cause you to taste metal, including:
Oral infections can also trigger a metallic taste.
Taste buds tend to diminish with age, but it’s especially problematic when someone develops dementia.
Taste abnormalities, including a metallic taste, is a common symptom of changes in a certain part of the brain. This is because your taste buds are connected by brain nerves. When this portion of the brain malfunctions, it affects taste.
The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can trigger dysgeusia.
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It’s this same phenomenon that triggers unusual pregnancy cravings. However, it can also manifest in a sour and/or metallic taste.2
Food allergies, especially those associated with tree nuts and shellfish, can trigger a metallic taste.
In this case, the metallic taste can be an early warning sign of anaphylaxis. This is a potentially fatal reaction, so it’s important to consult with your doctor if you suspect the strange taste is linked to a food allergy.
9. Chemical exposures
A metallic taste might arise after exposure to certain chemicals, including:
Contact your doctor as soon as possible if you believe the metallic taste in your mouth is associated with chemical exposure.
Loss of taste and loss of smell were two of the first-reported symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.
There have also been reports of metallic taste. This abnormal or impaired sense is typically only experienced for a few days while someone is COVID-positive. But some people experience months of taste changes after having the virus.
In addition to the illness, some people have reported experiencing an “intense metallic taste” after receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The taste change occurs within minutes of their first dose of the vaccine.3
A metallic taste in the mouth can usually be prevented. The easiest way to do this is to maintain good oral hygiene that includes brushing, flossing, and tongue-scraping.
Other ways to reduce your risk of metal or foul taste in your mouth include:
The most important thing you can do is speak to your doctor about getting to the root cause of the problem. Understanding why you experience taste changes and resolving that issue, if possible, instead of masking symptoms, offers long-term relief.
There are several things you can do to alleviate the metallic taste in your mouth, including:
Having a metallic taste in your mouth is rarely serious, but it can be. You should see your doctor if:
(1) Hoppe, C., et al. “Zinc as a Complementary Treatment for Cancer Patients: A Systematic Review.” Clinical and Experimental Medicine, vol. 21, no. 2, 2021, pp. 297–313, 10.1007/s10238-020-00677-6.
(2) “What Causes a Metallic Taste in Your Mouth?” Cleveland Clinic, 31 Aug. 2021.
(3) Edwards, Erika. “A Mouthful of Nickels? Some Say They Taste Metal after a Covid-19 Vaccination.” NBC News.
(4) DiNuzzo, Emily. “13 Things That Can Cause a Metallic Taste in Your Mouth.” MSN.
(6) “Oral Health | Healthy People 2020.” Healthypeople.gov, 2014.