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9 Reasons You Have a Metallic Taste in Your Mouth

Metal mouth could be linked to what you eat, but it could also have to do with any of these other health issues or conditions.

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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? Lisa Lewis, MD, a pediatrician in Fort Worth, TX, explains that when the body ingests and absorbs medication, the substances are released and excreted in the saliva. 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.” Dr. Lewis adds that a common medication side effect is dry mouth, which could also cause a foul or metallic taste. (Also, you should be careful mixing these medications with exercise.)

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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, NY, 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 dies down in the second. (Here are the foods you should eat during pregnancy.)

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You have poor oral hygiene

Poor oral hygiene could be the 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, NY, 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. “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. (Psst: These remedies will help you banish bad breath.)

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You have a sinus infection, allergies, or an upper respiratory infection

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,” Dr. Lewis says. These sinus problems could include anything from the common cold and sinus infections to middle-ear infections and nasal polyps. (A neti pot may help—if you use it correctly.)

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You have a zinc deficiency or an excess of zinc

Dysgeusia, which is an abnormal or impaired sense of taste, could be caused by an excess or lack of zinc, says Kristin Koskinen, RDN, a dietitian nutritionist in Richland, WA. Malnutrition, which might include a zinc deficiency, may slow cell renewal, resulting in taste changes, according to Koskinen. On the other hand, people who take too much zinc through supplements could experience nausea, abdominal distress, or dysgeusia—in the form of that pesky metallic taste, Koskinen says. (Psst: Here’s how to increase vitamin absorption.)

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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. Similarly to other medications, drugs with bitter tastes injected into the bloodstream can get into the saliva, too, causing metal mouth in cancer patients.

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You have pine nut syndrome

People might experience a consistent metallic taste in their mouths within 12 to 48 hours of eating pine nuts, according to a study in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. The nuts, commonly found in salads and pesto, aren’t creating an allergic reaction, but Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe says that the reason for the metallic tastes remains unclear.

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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.” (Learn about the healthy foods that are dangerous to overeat.)

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You have liver or kidney disease

Although rare, liver or kidney disease could cause a metallic taste in your mouth, too. According to Dr. Lewis, that’s because these conditions create a buildup of chemicals in the body. “These chemicals are released into the saliva, causing a metallic taste,” she says. “For example, patients with severe kidney disease will have excess production of ammonia in the saliva, causing a metallic taste in the mouth.” (Learn how a fitness blogger recovered from kidney disease.)

Medically reviewed by Steven Czekala, DDS

Next, read about what to do when you have chronic dry mouth.