Sour, bitter or acidic: 5 tastes in the mouth that indicate a health problem

Unusual or bad taste in the mouth? Check out 5 different tastes in your mouth that are indicating potential health problems.
Woman with a bad taste in the mouth
Bad taste in the mouth may make food seem unappealing! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Aayushi Gupta Updated: 17 Oct 2023, 17:59 pm IST
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After consuming onions or garlic, many of us encounter an unusual taste and odor in our mouth. This might also be a result of inadequate oral hygiene. Although an occasional bad taste in the mouth is normal, experiencing a strange taste for an extended period could indicate an underlying dental or medical issue. In fact, various diseases can lead to different types of tastes in the mouth. Hence, it’s crucial not to ignore these symptoms and seek advice from a doctor to identify the underlying cause.

Health Shots reached out to Dr Sheetal Radia, ENT and Head, and Neck Onco Surgeon, Wockhardt Hospitals, Mira Road, Mumbai, who revealed that there are several illnesses that can affect the taste in your mouth.

She says, “There is a strong connection between the tastes in your mouth and the various diseases you suffer from. If you are one of those who continuously experience a salty, bitter, sweet, or even bitter taste in the mouth, then you might be dealing with a health problem that needs medical attention.”

Causes of bad taste in the mouth

Here are 5 different tastes in your mouth that may indicate that there is something wrong with your health:

1. Bitter taste

A bitter taste in the mouth can be a result of various factors, some benign and others more concerning. “Acid reflux, commonly known as heartburn, is a frequent cause of a bitter taste, as stomach acid flows back into the esophagus and mouth,” says Dr Radia. Chronic sinusitis or nasal issues can also contribute to this taste alteration, as post-nasal drip irritates the taste buds. In some cases, it could also be linked to certain medications, poor oral hygiene, hormonal changes, stress, and certain conditions such as menopause, nerve damage, and liver problems, so it is essential to identify the underlying cause.

Eating pizza
The bitter taste in the mouth can be caused by indigestion. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Sour taste

A sour taste in the mouth can have various causes, ranging from relatively minor causes to more serious health issues. According to Dr Radia, “Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a prevalent reason for experiencing a sour taste due to stomach acid reaching the mouth.” Apart from it, poor oral hygiene or dental issues can also lead to a sour taste in the mouth, as bacteria produce acids that affect the taste buds. Additionally, hormonal changes during pregnancy might trigger this taste alteration in some women.

3. Salty taste

Although salty foods can make our taste buds happy, experiencing an inexplicable salty taste in the mouth can be irritating and worrisome. Dehydration is one of the main culprits, as reduced saliva production can concentrate the sodium levels in the mouth. Certain medications, particularly those used to treat allergies or hypertension, can also induce a salty taste in the mouth. Kidney problems might be another reason, as they play a pivotal role in maintaining the body’s electrolyte balance.

4. Metallic taste

A persistent metallic taste in the mouth may signal various health concerns. One common cause is gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. Poor oral hygiene and bacterial buildup can lead to inflammation, resulting in an unpleasant taste. Additionally, Dr Radia, “A metallic taste might be an early indicator of certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies, such as zinc or copper, and kidney or liver diseases.” Furthermore, individuals undergoing certain medications, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy may experience this taste alteration as a side effect.

taste in mouth
Different tastes in the mouth have different causes. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

5. Sweet taste

An unexplained sweet or fruity taste in the mouth could be an alarming sign for those who haven’t recently consumed sugary or fruity foods. It might be associated with diabetes (oral health signs of diabetes) or hyperglycemia, a condition where blood sugar levels are elevated. This taste arises due to the presence of excess glucose in the bloodstream, which can sometimes escape through saliva, leading to a fruity or sweet taste in the mouth. Along with this taste, if you also notice symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, and blurred vision, immediately seek medical attention.

Pay attention to any sudden changes in your taste, as they could potentially lead to problems. Whenever you experience such changes, make sure to consult your doctor for advice.

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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