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10 Things That Can Cause a Metallic Taste in Your Mouth

Whether it's a pine nut or certain supplements, there are many reasons you can have a metallic taste in your mouth.

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Why do I have a metallic taste in my mouth?

If you’ve ever rushed to rinse your mouth out because it suddenly tastes like pennies, you’re not alone. People experience a metallic taste for a variety of reasons. It’s estimated that 15 percent of U.S. adults experience some type of disordered taste or smell, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Because taste and smell are so intertwined—your preference for a certain food is usually based on both aroma and flavor—it can be difficult to determine whether a mouth that tastes like metal can be blamed on your taste buds or nose. To help you root out the reason for the metallic taste—and figure out how to get rid of it—we have rounded up the latest research on the causes and treatments of a mouth that tastes like metal. Check out these foods that really do taste like chicken.

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pine nuts browning in a panAnastasiaKopa/Shutterstock

You have pine nut syndrome

Have you ever eaten something that leaves your mouth with a bitter aftertaste for hours? What about weeks? A 2013 report in the medical journal Food Chemical Toxicology outlined 501 complaints of a long-lasting metallic aftertaste from pine nuts.

Interestingly enough, researchers did not find that the metallic taste was related to a pine nut allergy. Rather, the common thread was the consumption of a specific type of pine nut: Pinus armandii. So if you love eating pine nuts but hate their aftertaste, try a different variety. These pine nut recipes are the best way to enjoy these tiny nuts.

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toothbrush in a glass cup on the edge of a bathroom sinktoondelamour/Getty Images

You have poor oral hygiene

Poor oral hygiene could be one simple reason there is a metallic taste in your mouth, according to Isabel Garcia, DDS, a faculty member and practice leader at Touro College of Dental Medicine in Hawthorne, New York, where she oversees the clinical training of dental students.

Not taking care of or cleaning your teeth could lead to gingivitis and periodontitis. According to Garcia, these beginning stages of gum disease could cause metal mouth.

Forty-seven percent of U.S. adults older than 30 have some degree of periodontal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A metallic taste might be your first warning sign, though you will probably also have symptoms like bad breath, tender gums or sensitive teeth.

“Visiting your dentist every six months for a checkup and cleaning keeps you updated on the state of your oral health while also allowing an opportunity for any suggestions on how to create and maintain better health habits that are specific to you,” Garcia says.

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You have a sinus infection, allergies or cold

The congestion and mucus associated with respiratory infections may cause a foul or metallic taste in the mouth.

“In this situation, mucus from the nose and throat will be tasted on the tongue,” says Lisa Lewis, MD, a pediatrician in Fort Worth, Texas.

These sinus problems could include anything from the common cold and sinus infections to nasal polyps.

People with chronic sinusitis often experience unpleasant or metallic tastes. A study of 68 such patients in the International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology found that a metallic taste was particularly common among men, seniors and frequent smokers.

So, why does mucus in your nose trigger a metallic taste in your mouth? It’s because up to 90 percent of flavor actually comes from your sense of smell, according to research published in the medical journal Flavour. These are the foods you should eat when you have a cold.

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bottle of pills on a gray background with pills spilling outChatsuda Sakdapetsiri/Shutterstock

You’re taking certain medications

The most common cause of a metallic taste in the mouth is medications. Antibiotics, antihistamines, over-the-counter supplements and blood pressure medications are all known for causing this taste side effect.

Why? Dr. Lewis explains that the substances are released and excreted in the saliva when the body ingests and absorbs medication. The end result is often a metallic taste in the mouth.

“Commonly, vitamin supplements that contain iron, chromium, calcium and zinc cause a metallic taste in the mouth,” she says. “This side effect may also be with antibiotics and neurologic and cardiac medications.”

“Lithium is a classic,” says Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, MD, an evidence-based provider at One Medical and clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, Arizona. “Other antidepressants, antibiotics and even medicine for gout can be culprits.”

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close up pregnant belly with womans hands touching above and belowMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

You’re pregnant

Changes in your sense of taste are common during pregnancy.

Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, a physician and health and wellness expert in New York, says that these changes to your taste buds may be due to some of the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. This usually happens during the first trimester and typically subsides in the second. Shanta Retelny adds that both prenatal vitamins and early pregnancy can make your mouth taste like metal. The good news? “It goes away quickly,” she says. Treat the new parents in your life to these quick-prep recipes.

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You have mercury poisoning

One side effect of mercury poisoning is a metallic taste in your mouth, according to Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe. That said, more severe symptoms, such as neurological issues, are more concerning. Exposure to mercury could stem from working in an industrial job or from eating methylmercury-contaminated fish, she adds.

“The bottom line is that there are various modes in which one may become exposed to mercury, and this exposure may have some deleterious effects on the body,” Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe says. “It’s definitely important to recognize some of the symptoms of mercury toxicity so that you know when it is necessary to seek out medical help.” 

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You have a neurological disorder

Neurological disorders affect your nervous system, which helps relay sights, smells, tastes and sounds to your brain. These diseases can disrupt your sense of flavor, making your mouth seem metallic “due to changes in taste,” according to Shanta Retelny. Research also supports this.

In a case study of a man with a rare disease called facial onset sensory and motor neuronopathy (FOSMN), a change in taste was one of the patient’s first symptoms, according to a report in the journal BMC Neurology.

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An Older Woman Having Her Ears Checked By The Ear DoctorVladimir Vladimirov/Getty Images

You recently had middle ear surgery

If you experienced premature hearing loss, your doctor might have suggested surgery to fix the issue. Unfortunately, nerve damage sometimes occurs during these procedures. Taste dysfunction—including a metallic taste in the mouth—is one well-documented side effect of nerve damage during ear surgery.

Fortunately, there might be medications to treat this issue. In one case study published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, a patient found relief after taking an antidepressant called amitriptyline. If you think you’re experiencing a metallic taste due to nerve damage, talk to your doctor about possible treatments that might work for you.

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a welder working with metal fumes surrounding himBen Welsh/Getty Images

You could have metal fume fever

A metallic taste in your mouth can be a side effect of breathing in metal fumes, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders. This can occur in welding centers or metal manufacturing facilities with poor ventilation. Fortunately, symptoms like chills, fever, and a metallic taste often dissipate within hours of escaping to a well-ventilated area. If you believe you’ve been exposed to heavy metal or any metal fumes for a prolonged period of time, seek medical attention to determine any long-term impact on health.

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You’ve undergone chemotherapy

In addition to nausea, a common complaint of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy is a metallic taste in the mouth.

Many cancer survivors can commiserate about the ubiquitous “metal mouth” triggered by chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. In fact, between 10 and 78 percent of cancer patients experience this phenomenon, a study published in Cancer Treatment Review.

Here’s why: Some bitter medicines injected into your bloodstream can make their way into your saliva, too, causing metal mouth. These meal train recipes will definitely help those in need.

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How to diagnose the problem

If the metallic taste in your mouth doesn’t go away after a day or two, it’s time to call your doctor. Rather than using a quick fix like mouthwash or mints, a medical professional will discuss your medical history, current medications, and supplements and possibly examine your body for obvious signs of a relevant health condition. Your treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the metallic taste.

“Since there are so many different causes of tasting metal, it’s important to see a primary care provider so they can determine the next best steps to get your tastebuds feeling metal-free,” Dr. Bhuyan says.

Next, learn the scientific reason why cilantro can taste like soap.

The Healthy
Originally Published on The Healthy

Leandra Beabout
I am an Indiana-based freelance travel, education, and lifestyle journalist with a background in K-12 public education and newspaper journalism. Some of my work can be found at Fodor's, Lonely Planet, CNN, ACIS, and The Everygirl. I am HubSpot Content Marketing certified. I am available as a freelance content marketing writer, branded content writer, and ghostblogger for ethical lifestyle brands.