Bad Taste in Mouth: A Guide to Causes and Treatments

By Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 17, 2022

Have you ever had a bad taste in your mouth? Do you feel like you can’t get rid of it no matter how much you brush your teeth or drink water? If so, you’re not alone.

A 2016 survey found that about 1 in 20 people in the United States experience a persistent bad taste in the mouth.

While there are many causes of bad taste in the mouth, the good news is that there are also many treatments.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the most common causes of bad taste in the mouth and the best ways to treat them.

Types of Bad Tastes in Mouth

There are many different types of bad tastes that can plague your mouth. 

Here are some of the most common:

1. Metallic: This is one of the most common types of bad taste in the mouth. It can be caused by medications, dental problems, or even pregnancy. Try drinking more water and avoiding foods that are high in acidity.

2. Bitter: A bitter taste in the mouth can be caused by a number of things, including certain medications and even some medical conditions. If you’re experiencing a bitter taste, try drinking more water and avoiding caffeinated beverages.

3. Sour: A sour taste in the mouth can be caused by acid reflux, certain medications, or dental problems. To remedy this, try drinking more water and avoiding acidic foods.

4. Sweet: A sweet taste in the mouth can be caused by diabetes or certain medications. To help, you can try drinking more water and avoiding sugary foods.

5. Salty: A salty taste in the mouth can be caused by high blood pressure, certain medications, or kidney problems. If you’re experiencing a salty taste, try drinking more water and avoiding salty foods.

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Causes

There are many different things that can cause a bad taste in your mouth. Here are some of the most common causes.

Oral infections

Oral infections, such as gingivitis and periodontitis, are a common cause of bad taste in the mouth.

These infections can cause inflammation and bleeding of the gums, which can lead to a buildup of bacteria in the mouth. This can cause a metallic or sour taste in the mouth.

Poor oral care 

Poor oral hygiene or dental health issues such as cavities and gum disease can contribute to a lingering bad taste. Infection, inflammation, and abscesses may also be involved.

Other symptoms of problematic oral hygiene include:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Bleeding gums
  • Red or swollen mouth tissue
  • Sensitive teeth

Brush, floss, and use a mouth rinse every day to prevent dental problems.

It is also important to schedule regular dental cleanings and screenings.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, is a condition that can be caused when salivary glands don’t produce enough saliva. This can cause a dry, sticky feeling inside your mouth.

Saliva reduces the growth of bacteria in the mouth and helps to remove bits of food.

When there isn’t enough saliva, it might have a bad taste in the mouth due to extra bacteria and leftover food there.

Dry mouth can lead to a bad taste in the mouth, as well as other symptoms such as:

  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A burning sensation in the mouth

If you’re experiencing dry mouth, you may also want to talk to your dentist or healthcare professional about medications that can help relieve dry mouth.

GERD 

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux, can cause a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. This is because stomach acid flows back into the esophagus and irritates the lining of the throat.

Other symptoms of GERD include:

Vitamin deficiencies 

Certain vitamin deficiencies can contribute to a bad taste in the mouth.

For instance, a lack of vitamin B12 can cause a metallic taste, while a deficiency in zinc can lead to a bitter taste.

Other symptoms of vitamin deficiencies include:

If you think you may be deficient in vitamins, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about getting tested. They may recommend taking supplements or changing your diet.

Viral infections

When you have a cold, sinus infection, or other illness, your body naturally releases a protein made by different cells in the body to promote and mediate inflammation.

It’s thought that this protein can also affect the taste buds, causing increased sensitivity to bitter tastes when you’re sick.

Fungal infections

A fungal infection of the mouth, also called oral thrush or candidiasis, can cause a bad taste. This is because the fungi that cause the infection release chemicals that stimulate the taste buds.

Other symptoms of oral thrush include:

  • White patches on the tongue and inside of the cheeks
  • Cracking at the corners of the mouth
  • Redness and soreness in the mouth
  • Loss of taste
  • Dry mouth

Hepatitis B 

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver, and it can cause a bitter taste in the mouth. 

Other symptoms include:

Hepatitis B is serious, and anyone who suspects it should seek treatment right away.

Hormonal imbalances

Hormonal changes in early pregnancy can impact the sense of taste and smell. Many report a metallic taste in the mouth, but it usually disappears as the pregnancy progresses.

Hormonal changes linked to menopause may also cause dry mouth, which is often accompanied by a bitter taste.

Certain medications and foods 

Medications that can cause a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth include:

Other medications may cause dry mouth, which affects the sense of taste.

Tobacco products

Tobacco products, including cigarettes and chewing tobacco, can cause a bad taste in the mouth.

This is due to the tar and other chemicals in tobacco that can impact the sense of taste.

Other symptoms of tobacco use include:

  • Bad breath
  • Coughing
  • Increased mucus production
  • Yellow or brown teeth stains
  • Premature wrinkles

Smoking also increases the risk of developing cancer and other serious health conditions.

Diagnosis

If you’re concerned about a bad taste in your mouth, make an appointment to see your dentist or healthcare provider. They can learn about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam.

They may also recommend tests, such as:

Treatment 

The type of treatment will largely depend on why you’re having a bad taste in your mouth. 

Home remedies

If the cause of your bad taste is a minor infection, such as a cold or sinus infection, there are some home remedies that may help. 

These include:

  • Gargling with warm saltwater
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Avoiding foods that irritate the throat
  • Using a humidifier

Medical care

The treatment for a bad taste in the mouth depends on the underlying cause. 

If it’s due to GERD, your dentist or healthcare provider may recommend:

  • Antacids
  • H2 blockers
  • Proton pump inhibitors

If an infection is the cause, they may prescribe antibiotics. If a vitamin deficiency is to blame, they may recommend supplements. If hormonal changes are the problem, they may recommend hormone therapy.

Prevention

There are some things you can do to help prevent a bad taste in your mouth.

Preventative actions include: 

  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Practicing good oral hygiene
  • Limiting processed foods
  • Staying hydrated

These lifestyle changes can also help reduce your risk of other health conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.

Concerned about a bad taste in your mouth? Chat with a medical provider using K Health.
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When To Call Your Medical Provider

You should call your dentist or healthcare provider if:

  • The bad taste lasts more than a week
  • You have other symptoms, such as pain, fever, or nausea
  • You have trouble swallowing
  • Your gums are red, swollen, or bleeding
  • You have white patches on your tongue or inside of your cheeks
  • You think you may have an infection
  • You’re pregnant and have a bad taste in your mouth
  • You’re postmenopausal and have a bad taste in your mouth

If the bad taste persists or is accompanied by other symptoms, you should see your dentist or healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and, if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

What causes a bad taste in the mouth?
There are many possible causes of a bad taste in the mouth, including infection, dry mouth, tobacco use, and certain medications.
How do I get rid of a horrible taste in my mouth?
The treatment for a bad taste in the mouth depends on the underlying cause. If it’s due to an infection, your dentist or healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics. If dry mouth is the problem, they may recommend artificial saliva products or suggest lifestyle changes to help increase saliva production.
Does COVID give you a bad taste in your mouth?
There is no current research to suggest that COVID-19 causes a bad taste in the mouth. However, some people who have contracted the virus have reported experiencing a loss of taste or smell.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN

Craig Sorkin, DNP, APN is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 15 years experience. He received his Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from William Paterson University and his doctoral degree from Drexel University. He has spent his career working in the Emergency Room and Primary Care. The last 6 years of his career have been dedicated to the field of digital medicine. He has created departments geared towards this specialized practice as well as written blogs and a book about the topic.

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