A bad taste in the mouth can be a result of a wide range of medical conditions and even everyday situations. It may occur after eating, after coughing, or constantly, depending upon the cause. Many different kinds of prescription or over-the-counter medications can interfere with the sense of taste and may produce an unpleasant sensation of taste. The feeling of a bad taste in the mouth is usually temporary and improves when the underlying cause is remedied. Consumption of certain foods, or the use of tobacco products, can result in an unpleasant or bad taste in the mouth. Poor dental health and poor hygiene are other potential causes of a bad taste in the mouth.
Dysgeusia is the medical term for an impaired sense of taste. It can result in unpleasant taste sensations ranging from metallic to salty or bitter. The bad taste may also be described as foul or rancid. The severity of the bad taste varies among affected individuals. Dysgeusia can be caused by infections (cold, flu, sinus infections, for example), inflammation, injury, or environmental factors. A history of radiation therapy for cancer treatment to the head and neck can also cause a bad taste in the mouth. Sometimes, women in the early stages of pregnancy find that their sense of taste appears to have changed, possibly resulting in a bad taste in the mouth. Depending upon the cause of the sense of bad taste, there may be other associated symptoms, such as nausea or dry mouth.
Other causes of bad taste in the mouth
- Bacterial Infections
- Cancer Chemotherapy
- Ear, Nose, or Throat Surgeries
- Fungal Infections
- Normal Aging
- Pollutants or Toxins
- Poor Oral Hygiene
- Previous Radiation Therapy to the Head and Neck
- Viral Infections
- Vitamin Deficiencies
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Dental (Oral) Health Quiz: Test Your Dental Hygiene IQ
Take the Dental Health Quiz to test your IQ of oral hygiene, cavities, and common tongue and gum diseases. This quiz covers...
Dental Problems: Tooth Decay, TMJ, Mouth Pain Causes & Treatments
Do you have a toothache? What is oral cancer? Symptoms like mouth pain and sensitive teeth can indicate dental problems. Learn...
Dry Mouth Causes, Treatments, and Remedies
What causes dry mouth (xerostomia)? How do you get rid of and cure dry mouth? Learn about dry mouth symptoms as well as natural...
Migraine or Tension Headache? Symptoms, Triggers, Treatments
What does a migraine headache feel like compared to a tension headache? Learn to spot migraine symptoms early, how to identify...
Mouth Problems: TMJ, Canker Sores, Painful Gums and More
Sores, painful gums, bad breath -- what's going on in your mouth? Find out with our slideshow of the most common mouth problems....
The Ugly Truth About Your Toothbrush & Germs
How many germs are on your toothbrush? See how to store and keep your toothbrush clean from the millions of bacteria that can...
Causes of Bad Taste in the Mouth
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Bad breath can result from poor oral hygiene habits and may be a sign of other health problems. Bad breath, also called halitosis, can be made worse by the types of food eaten and other unhealthy lifestyle habits.
Chewing Tobacco (Smokeless Tobacco, Snuff)
People absorb more nicotine into their systems by chewing tobacco (snuff or smokeless tobacco) than by smoking a cigarette. Chewing tobacco or snuff can cause cancers, poor oral health (gum disease and tooth decay), infertility, pregnancy complications, and nicotine addiction. Nicotine addiction can be overcome with available prescription drugs and other treatment programs.
Dehydration in Adults & Children
Dehydration is the excessive loss of body water. There are a number of causes of dehydration including heat exposure, prolonged vigorous exercise, and some diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Symptoms of dehydration include headache, lightheadedness, constipation, and bad breath. Treatment for dehydration is to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
Dry mouth is a common side effect of many prescription and non-prescription drugs and certain medical conditions. Symptoms of dry mouth include a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth, frequent thirst, sores in the mouth; sores or split skin at the corners of the mouth, cracked lips, a dry feeling in the throat, a burning or tingling sensation in the mouth, and a dry, red, raw tongue.
A dry socket is a potential complication that can occur when a blood clot in the gums becomes dislodged after a tooth extraction. Dry socket signs and symptoms include pain, mouth odor, and unpleasant taste in the mouth. A dentist may treat a dry socket with analgesic dressing. Over-the-counter pain medications can also relieve symptoms. A dry socket usually heals within 7 days. Avoiding smoking, drinking with a straw, and vigorous rinsing and spitting may help prevent the formation of dry socket.
GERD (Acid Reflux) in Infants and Children
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is the upward movement of stomach content, including acid, into the esophagus and sometimes into or out of the mouth. Common symptoms of GERD in children include colic, feeding problems, poor growth, frequent vomiting or coughing, heartburn, regurgitation, recurrent wheezing, pneumonia, choking, or gagging. Treatment may involve elevating the child's bed, keeping the child upright after eating, limiting foods that seem to make the reflux worse, encouraging your child to exercise, and serving several small meals a day.
Gum Disease (Gingivitis)
Gum disease is caused by plaque and may result in tooth loss without proper treatment. Read about symptoms, stages, treatment, and home remedies.
Head Injury (Brain Injury)
In the United States, head injuries are one of the most common causes of death and disability. Head injuries due to bleeding are generally classified by the location of the blood within the skull, these include epidural hematoma, subdural hematoma, subarachnoid bleed, intracranial bleed, sheer injury, edema, and skull fracture. Some common symptoms of a head injury include vomiting, bleeding from the ear, speech difficulties, paralysis, difficulty swallowing, and body numbness. Treatment of a head injury depends on the type and severity of the injury.
Hiatal hernia is a condition in which a thin membrane of tissue connects the esophagus with the diaphragm becoming weak, and a portion of the stomach slides up into the esophagus. Causes include obesity, pregnancy, straining during a bowel movement, aging, and ascites. There are generally no symptoms of a hiatal hernia, and it is discovered during another medical procedure to test for GERD or other swallowing problems.
Middle Ear Infection (Otitis Media)
A middle ear infection (otitis media) can cause earache, temporary hearing loss, and pus drainage from the ear. It is most common in babies, toddlers, and young children. Learn about causes and treatment.
Mono (Infectious Mononucleosis)
Infectious mononucleosis is a virus infection in which there is an increase of white blood cells that are mononuclear (with a single nucleus) "Mono" and "kissing disease" are popular terms for this very common illness caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).
Pericoronitis is inflammation of the gum tissue around the molars that often occurs in young people when the wisdom teeth erupt. Learn about causes, symptoms, and treatment.
Sinus Infection (Sinusitis)
Sinus infection (sinusitis) is caused by allergies, infection, and chemicals or other irritants of sinuses. Signs and symptoms include headache, fever, and facial tenderness, pressure, or pain. Treatments of sinus infections are generally with antibiotics and at times, home remedies.
Smoking (How to Quit Smoking)
Smoking is an addiction. More than 430,000 deaths occur each year in the U.S. from smoking related illnesses. Secondhand smoke or "passive smoke" also harm family members, coworkers, and others around smokers. There are a number of techniques available to assist people who want to quit smoking.
Tonsillitis is a contagious infection with symptoms of bad breath, snoring, congestion, headache, hoarseness, laryngitis, and coughing up blood. Tonsillitis can be caused by acute infection of the tonsils, and several types of bacteria or viruses (for example, strep throat or mononucleosis). There are two types of tonsillitis, acute and chronic. Acute tonsillitis lasts from 1-2 weeks while chronic tonsillitis can last from months to years. Treatment of tonsillitis and adenoids include antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, and home remedies to relieve pain and inflammation, for example, saltwater gargle, slippery elm throat lozenges, sipping warm beverages and eating frozen foods (ice cream, popsicles), serrapeptase, papain, and andrographism Some people with chronic tonsillitis may need surgery (tonsillectomy or adenoidectomy).
Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)
An upper respiratory infection is a contagious infection of the structures of the upper respiratory tract, which includes the sinuses, nasal passages, pharynx, and larynx. Common causes of an upper respiratory infection include bacteria and viruses such as rhinoviruses, group A streptococci, influenza, respiratory syncytial, whooping cough, diphtheria, and Epstein-Barr. Examples of symptoms of upper respiratory infection include sneezing, sore throat, cough, fever, and nasal congestion. Treatment of upper respiratory infections are based upon the cause. Generally, viral infections are treated symptomatically with over-the-counter (OTC) medication and home remedies.
What Are Some Taste Disorders?
The most common taste disorders involve phantom taste disorders, hypogeusia, ageusia and dysgeusia. Taste disorders may be related to diabetes, high blood pressure, poor nutrition, poor dental hygiene, COVID and nervous system disorders.
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter