Does your mouth taste like you’ve been munching on old coins? There’s a medical name for that: dysgeusia, a condition that can make your mouth taste metallic, salty, or rancid.
When you think about how your sense of taste works, it’s easy to see how it can get a little messed up. It’s not all about your tongue-it’s a complex system controlled by your taste buds and your olfactory system, which includes your nose and nasal cavity. If signals get crossed anywhere between your tongue, nose, and brain, then it might bring on that metallic taste.
You're taking certain medications
Antibiotics (including tetracycline and amoxicillin), lithium (used to treat psychiatric disorders), certain cardiac medications, and allopurinol (which treats gout and kidney stones) all commonly cause metallic taste in mouth. They can vary in the way they mess with your taste. Some cause dry mouth, which subsequently disturbs taste by decreasing the amount of saliva you produce, says family medicine expert Dr Summer Allen.
Other drugs may contain metals that are excreted through your saliva. And still others can muck up the signals your taste buds sends to your brain, which makes you perceive a metallic taste.
You're taking over-the-counter meds or vitamins
"Multivitamins may contain high amounts of metals, which cause taste disruption by disrupting ion channels that signal our perception of taste," says Dr Donald Ford. Aside from multivitamins, cold medicines and prenatal vitamins with high amounts of copper, zinc, chromium, calcium, or iron, could all be causing the metallic taste.
You have poor oral hygiene
Skipping brushing and flossing doesn’t just give you stinky breath and cavities. Over time, you may develop gingivitis, which puts you at risk for infections like periodontitis. "With presence of infection, blood flow to the tongue may be reduced, taste buds may become blocked or saliva output can decrease which also impacts taste buds and results in impairment of taste," says Dr. Allen.
You have a sinus infection
As if a stuffy nose, sore throat, and headache weren’t enough, a sinus infection may be dusrupting your tastebuds.
If you're congested and stuffy, this could be a cause of the metallic taste.
"Swelling and blockage in the salivary ducts can impair salivary flow," says Dr Ford. "Reduction in saliva output may cause injury to taste buds and their activity."
And if you're taking zinc lozenges to soothe your sore throat, that could also be contributing to your metal-mouth.
You've had head trauma
"Head trauma can cause direct injury to the nerves that control our sense of taste and smell. Any changes to these nerves can create permanent alterations in our perception," says Dr Ford.
Neurological diseases like multiple sclerosis and Bell's Palsy can also impact your body's sense of taste by disrupting the central nervous system.
You're being treated for cancer
Radiation and chemotherapy can both alter sense of taste. This happens when the cancer treatments are injected into the bloodstream, and also get into saliva.
You're a smoker
As if you need another reason to quit smoking, lighting up distorts your sense of taste. All those chemicals you inhale throw off the ability of your taste buds to regenerate, which can cause a metallic taste-or dull your taste altogether. A 2014 study puiblished in Chemosensory Perception found thats smokers have a tougher time recognising certain flavors, especially bitter ones.
You have acid reflux
That burning sensation you feel when you have heartburn is caused by stomach acids creeping back up your digestive tract. Sometimes, they can reach your mouth. "When the digestive acidic enzymes in your stomach intended to help digest food reflux into your throat/back of your mouth, it can damage the taste buds/receptors and lead to the metallic taste," says Dr Allen.
One common early sign of pregnancy is a sudden aversion to certain foods. Similarly, the surge of hormones you’re experiencing can also screw with your taste, making you feel like you’re suddenly sucking on a penny.