What Causes a Metallic Taste in Your Mouth?

No one would ever say it's a pleasant experience, but it's a common one: a metallic taste in your mouth that you can't "swallow away."

Since taste is directly related to your sense of smell, conditions that affect it or your taste buds are often the culprit, including sinus infections, medication side effects, and food allergies.

If you're relatively healthy, it's typically nothing to worry about. Though, in some cases, the causes are more serious, including diabetes, dementia, and kidney failure.

This article offers several explanations for what causes a metallic ("tinny") taste in the mouth. The article also suggests when it's time to consult a healthcare provider and what steps you can take to minimize the taste in the meantime.

What causes a metallic taste in the mouth

Verywell / Lara Antal

Causes

Only some of the causes are directly related to the mouth; others are not at all.

Gum Disease or Poor Oral Health

Gingivitis or periodontal disease often result from poor oral hygiene. "Poor" means forgoing regular dental check-ups and not brushing or flossing regularly. These habits can leave a metallic taste in your mouth.

Often, the "metal mouth" sensation is caused by bleeding gums—a sure sign of gum disease. Blood is rich in iron, which is why it leaves behind a metallic taste.

Bleeding can also be a sign of oral cavity cancer so if bleeding persists make sure to have your mouth checked for cancer by your dentist, doctor or otolaryngologist (ENT doctor).

Gum disease can and should be treated to avoid complications such as tooth loss. If you suspect that gum disease may be causing the metallic taste in your mouth, make an appointment with your dentist.

Burning Mouth Syndrome

This fittingly named syndrome causes a burning sensation on the tongue or mucous membranes inside the mouth. It is often followed by a bitter or metallic taste.

Medications used to treat burning mouth syndrome include tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines (often used to treat anxiety), and gabapentin (used to treat pain and seizures).

Mouth Injury or Oral Surgery

Mouth injuries (such as biting your tongue) or oral surgery (such as wisdom teeth removal or a tonsillectomy) are surefire ways to spawn a metallic taste in your mouth.

The taste may linger until the bleeding is under control and the wound heals.

Medication and Vitamins

Hundreds of commonly used medications can leave behind a metallic taste because they interact with taste sensation in the brain. Some of the more common meds responsible include:

  • Antibiotics, including metronidazole
  • Antidepressants or antipsychotic medications
  • Antifungal medications
  • Antihistamines
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Diabetes medications, including metformin
  • Diuretics
  • Glaucoma medications
  • Nicotine patches
  • Osteoporosis medications
  • Radiation drugs
  • Seizure medications, including phenytoin
  • Steroids

Vitamins that contain metals, such as copper, iron, and zinc, can also bring about a metallic taste simply because of the ingredients they contain. Women often experience this when taking prenatal vitamins.

Sinus Problems

Conditions such as upper respiratory infections, colds, sinusitis, enlarged turbinates, deviated septum, or even a middle ear infection can cause abnormalities in your sense of smell and, subsequently, your sense of taste.

Allergies (such as to tree pollen) can lead to sinus problems and a strange taste in your mouth. Addressing the underlying problem can be the answer.

A loss in the sense of taste is known as dysgeusia. This loss can be accompanied by a metallic or smoky taste in the mouth.

Pregnancy

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause disturbances in taste and smell. These changes may manifest as a metallic taste in your mouth.

Like morning sickness, the unusual taste is often more common in the first trimester than later in pregnancy.

Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis

Specific food allergies, such as to shellfish and tree nuts, have been known to cause an metallic taste in the mouth.

It could also be an early symptom of a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. The metallic taste can begin almost immediately, prior to other symptoms of anaphylaxis.

These symptoms include swelling, itchy skin, difficulty breathing, wheezing, nausea or vomiting, headaches, and disorientation.

Anaphylaxis is life-threatening. If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing an anaphylactic reaction, call 911 immediately.

Diabetes and Low Blood Sugar

Diabetes and low blood sugar are both known to cause taste disturbances, including a metallic taste in the mouth.

A common diabetes medication, metformin, is also a likely trigger.

Neurological Diseases

Neurological problems, such as Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia, can cause the brain to misinterpret signals coming from the taste buds. This can result in loss of appetite and a metallic taste in the mouth.

Other neurological problems that can set off this reaction include:

Kidney Failure

Another serious cause of a metallic taste in your mouth is kidney failure. Uremic toxicity (excessive uric acid), which is due to a loss of kidney function, can cause taste changes.

Keep in mind that this is one of many possible signs of kidney problems.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

A brief flash of a metallic taste in your mouth is usually nothing to worry about. In fact, if you've recently started taking a new medication, there's a good chance it's the cause. It should go away as your body adjusts to the medicine.

See your healthcare provider if the sensation persists or you develop other worrisome symptoms, like a fever.

Coping With a Metallic Taste

The best ways to treat and prevent that metallic taste in your mouth will depend on the cause. However, a few general strategies may make it more bearable in the meantime. Consider:

  • Brushing and flossing after meals
  • Chewing on sugar-free gum between meals
  • Masking the taste of metal with herbs, spices, and sweet condiments
  • Quitting smoking
  • Staying hydrated (a dry mouth can intensify the metallic taste, so drink water or eat ice chips)
  • Swapping your metal utensils for plastic ones, at least temporarily

Summary

Gum disease and poor oral hygiene are two likely reasons why you may be experiencing a metallic taste in your mouth. So are burning mouth syndrome and a mouth injury or recent oral surgery. Medication, vitamins, a food allergy, and sinus problems can also cause the unpleasant sensation.

It's usually nothing to worry about unless the taste persists or you develop other symptoms, like a fever. Then it's time to see your healthcare provider. In the meantime, a few coping tactics can help minimize the taste.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What vitamins can cause a metallic taste in your mouth?

    Multivitamins that contain copper, zinc, and chromium are prime suspects. So are prenatal vitamins, and calcium or iron supplements. The metallic taste will usually fade as your body processes the vitamins. If the taste doesn't go away in short order, check that you're taking the right dosage.

  • How can you get rid of a metallic taste after chemotherapy?

    Try waiting to eat a couple of hours after your treatment. You might also try eating food with strong spices or sauces to see if they help cover up the metallic taste.

  • What causes a metallic taste in your mouth while coughing?

    It may be caused by an upper respiratory or sinus infection. Also, some people have reported a metallic taste after a COVID-19 infection. If the metallic taste persists or gets worse, let your healthcare provider know. If you're having other severe symptoms, such as coughing up blood or difficulty breathing, seek medical care immediately.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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