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Bad Taste in Mouth


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What is bad taste in mouth?

Bad taste in mouth may indicate taste impairment. The causes of bad taste in mouth can range from altered taste to a complete loss of the sense of taste. Things that ordinarily taste sweet may seem offensive. However, a complete inability to taste is rare.

Bad taste in mouth a common symptom of gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), salivary gland infection, sinusitis, poor dental hygiene, or even the result of taking certain medicines. Taste problems are caused by anything that interrupts the transfer of taste sensations to the brain or by conditions that affect the way the brain interprets these sensations. Smell is central to the appreciation of taste. Any type of smell disturbance can also contribute to bad taste in mouth.

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Heartburn, or gastric reflux, is a common cause of bad taste. Stomach acid regurgitated into the mouth produces a bad taste described as an acid or metallic taste. An infection of the tonsils or one of the major salivary glands is also a common cause of bad taste. Similarly, poor dental hygiene causes bacterial growth in the mouth that could result in a bad taste. Another possibility is a viral infection that may damage the tongue’s sensory cells and result in changes to the sense of taste. Other mouth or tongue disorders, including mouth ulcers, are a possible cause, as well.

Bad taste may also result from radiation therapy and medicines, such as antibiotics and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. Taste problems may take months or even years to resolve. Some changes may be permanent, especially if the mouth is a target of direct radiation therapy.

Bad breath in mouth can be a sign of a serious condition. Seek prompt medical care if your bad taste in mouth is persistent or causes you concern. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience difficulty breathing or high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit).

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 16, 2016

© 2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. Taste - impaired. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  2. Salivary gland disorders. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  3. Heckmann JG, Heckmann SM, Lang CJ, Hummel T. Neurological aspects of taste disorders. Arch Neurol 2003; 60:667.

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