Bad taste in the mouth: causes bad taste in the mouth

A bitter, dirty or bad taste in your mouth while consuming something bitter, such as chicory (used as a coffee substitute) or black coffee (made with boiling water), is normal. However, having a chronic bitter taste in your mouth, regardless of what you eat or drink, is not normal and may indicate an underlying condition. There are several causes of a bitter or foul taste in the mouth, such as pregnancy, dry mouth and heartburn. Depending on the cause, a bitter taste in your mouth may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as bad breath or other complaints. Treatment of a bad taste in the mouth can consist of self-care, but sometimes it is advisable to consult the doctor, especially if the bad taste in the mouth persists.
  • Symptoms dirty mouth taste
  • Causes of bad taste in the mouth
  • Mouth burns
  • Pregnancy
  • Transition
  • Dry mouth
  • Acid reflux (stomach acid from the stomach)
  • Medications and vitamin supplements
  • Diseases and infections
  • Cancer treatments
  • Pine nuts
  • Smoking
  • Fungal infection (candida)
  • Become older
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Inflammation of the liver
  • Symptoms of tooth decay
  • Toothache
  • Sensitivity
  • Bad breath
  • Stains on teeth
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Self-care bad taste in the mouth
  • General measures
  • Wash out mouth with baking soda
  • Eating citrus fruits
  • Treatment of bad taste in the mouth
  • Examination and diagnosis
  • Medical treatment
  • Referral to a specialist
  • Prognosis foul taste in the mouth
Taste organ - The taste bud with taste receptor cells, basal cells and afferent nerve (sensory nerve) lies under the taste porous in the oral cavity. / Source: NEUROtiker, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Symptoms dirty mouth taste

A bad taste in the mouth can come and go or always be present. A bad taste in the mouth can be accompanied by the following symptoms:
  • metallic taste in the mouth
  • bitter taste in the mouth
  • burning mouth
  • burning tongue
  • stinking breath
  • bleeding gums
  • swollen gums
  • inflamed gums
  • sore gums
  • bump on gums
  • bumps on the palate
  • sensitive teeth
  • loose teeth
  • smelly tooth

Causes of bad taste in the mouth

Experiencing having a bad or bad taste in the mouth often does not indicate a serious problem, but it can disrupt your daily life and affect what you eat and how you experience it.

Mouth burns

Mouth burning is also known as burning mouth syndrome, which comes from English: Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS). Mouth burning causes a burning sensation in the mouth that can be very painful. These symptoms can occur in part of the mouth or in the entire mouth. It can also give a feeling of dry mouth and a bitter or metallic taste. Mouth burning occurs in both women and men, especially in women in transition. Sometimes a burning mouth has no recognizable cause. Doctors suspect that this is due to damage to the nerves in the mouth. It can also be associated with underlying conditions or treatments for conditions such as diabetes mellitus, cancer treatment and hormonal changes during the transition.
Bitter taste in the mouth during pregnancy / Source: Zerocool, Pixabay


The female hormone estrogen, which fluctuates during pregnancy, can change the taste buds. Many women report a bitter, metallic taste or 'blood taste' in the mouth, which they sometimes even 'taste' in their throats when they are pregnant. This usually disappears later in the pregnancy or after giving birth.


You need saliva to taste food. Salivary enzymes break down starch and convert it into glucose. In the chewing phase, the food is detected by the receptors of your taste buds and translated into sweet, salty, bitter, sour and savory (umami) flavors. The characteristics such as taste but also structure are transmitted to the brain. In the transition you can suffer from a dry mouth. Due to the fluctuations in the production of the hormone estrogen, which among other things ensures a good mucous membrane effect, it is possible that your salivary glands produce too little saliva for a while. Having less saliva and dry mucous membranes in the mouth can reduce or change your sense of taste. Also because saliva protects your mouth from bacteria, you may find that you have more dental problems such as cavities or receding gums. Tooth decay can also cause bad taste in the mouth.
But as you get older, you also lose some sense of smell. Because smell and taste are so closely linked, a less lively sense of smell can result in a less intense sense of taste.
Aging also affects your taste buds, slows regeneration and reduces the number of cells. You therefore simply have less good taste buds to taste with. This happens with men and women and is part of aging and not the transition. But when added to a dry mouth, it can cause women to lose more of their taste sensation.
Women in transition are also more likely to suffer from mouth burns (see above), which may be accompanied by poor taste in the mouth.

Dry mouth

The feeling of a dry mouth, also called xerostomy, can be caused by a decrease in saliva production or a change in the composition of saliva. The decrease in saliva can have a number of causes, including:
  • aging
  • certain medicines
  • an autoimmune disease, such as Sjögren's syndrome, in which especially tear and salivary glands become inflamed, causing excessive dryness in the mouth and eyes
  • smoking

Your taste can change without proper saliva production. For example, things can taste more bitter, less salty or have a salty taste in the mouth. In addition, lack of saliva can cause problems with swallowing (difficulty in swallowing) or speaking, and people with this condition may be more likely to suffer from cavities and gum disease.

Acid reflux (stomach acid from the stomach)

Acid reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORZ), occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter becomes weaker, allowing food and stomach acid to flow up from your stomach to the esophagus and mouth. The lower esophageal sphincter is a muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, the tube that brings food from the mouth to the stomach. Because this food from the stomach contains digestive acid and enzymes, it can cause a bad taste in your mouth. Other symptoms include:
  • burning chest pain a few hours after a meal
  • problems swallowing
  • a chronic dry cough
Dirty taste in the mouth due to medication / Source: Stevepb, Pixabay

Medications and vitamin supplements

Once your body has absorbed certain types of medication, remnants of the medication are excreted in the saliva. Moreover, if a medicine or supplement contains bitter or metallic elements, it can leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Common culprits are:
  • the antibiotic tetracycline
  • lithium, used to treat certain psychiatric disorders (including depression)
  • certain heart medications
  • vitamins and supplements that contain zinc, chromium or copper

Diseases and infections

When you have a cold, flu or sinusitis (sinusitis) or another disease, the body naturally releases a protein made by various cells in the body to cure inflammation. It is suspected that this protein also affects the taste buds, which causes an increased sensitivity to bitter tastes if you are sick or flu.

Cancer treatments

Irradiation (radiotherapy) and chemotherapy can irritate the taste buds, causing many foods, including water, to take on a metallic or bitter taste.

Pine nuts

Although it is not an allergy, some people may get a reaction to pine nuts that leave a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth about 12 to 48 hours after eating the seeds. It is not exactly known why this happens, but it may have something to do with a contaminant that is used in the processing process, a genetic predisposition, or the oil of the nut that becomes rancid.


Smoking hurts the sense of taste and smoking can therefore be the cause of experiencing a constant bad taste in your mouth. The reason that smoking causes bad taste is that tobacco contains toxic substances that damage the taste buds.
Candida infection in the mouth / Source: Adam J /

Fungal infection (candida)

A fungal infection in the mouth can cause white spots and spots on the throat and tongue. An unpleasant taste in the mouth is one of the symptoms of a fungal infection in the mouth.

Become older

As you get older, you lose a lot of your taste buds and this causes many older people to experience a bad taste in their mouths. A taste disorder in the elderly is very common. A number of factors contribute to the fact that many elderly people have a bitter or bad taste in their mouths. These are loss of sensory taste buds, increased use of medication and reduced saliva production.

Vitamin deficiency

If you have a constant bitter or sour taste in your mouth, this may be due to a severe vitamin deficiency. Vitamins and nutrients are necessary for the body to function properly, including the taste and smell functions. For example, zinc is needed for the senses of taste and smell. Not only a zinc deficiency, but also too much zinc can lead to a bad taste in the mouth and to other complications. A vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause loss of taste.

Poor oral hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is also a possible cause for a bitter or bad taste in the mouth. The foul taste can get worse depending on what you eat and whether you smoke. Brushing and flossing regularly helps remove bacteria between teeth and around the gums and prevent gum disease. A persistent bad taste in the mouth can be a sign of gum disease.

Inflammation of the liver

Hepatitis B is an inflammation of the liver or liver inflammation that is caused by a virus. Symptoms of hepatitis B can occur after 4 weeks to 6 months after infection with the virus. Many people develop a chronic or ongoing form of the disease with only vague symptoms. About 30% of people have no signs or symptoms of hepatitis B.
Jaundice / Source: Dr. Thomas F. Sellers, Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)
Early symptoms of hepatitis B consist of:
  • low fever
  • itching, hives, generalized pain
  • fatigue
  • nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • bad breath and bitter or bad taste in the mouth
  • loss of appetite, changed taste and odor
  • pain or sensitivity just below the ribs on the right, especially when pressure is applied

Symptoms that may follow a few days later are:
  • dark urine
  • light-colored poo or gray stool
  • yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice)
Tooth decay / Source: KDS4444, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-4.0)

Symptoms of tooth decay

Everyone knows that tooth decay is bad. It is an attack on the enamel (the hard protective layer) of your teeth, which can eventually cause your teeth to be lost. When you have not brushed your teeth for several hours, bacteria will stick to the surface of the teeth, which is called 'dental plaque'. By learning to recognize the symptoms of tooth decay, you can ensure that the problem is addressed as quickly as possible, before it gets worse and results in further damage to the teeth and gums. Symptoms of tooth decay are:


Toothache as a result of tooth decay can be a constant, dull ache or occasional sharp pain. While you can treat the pain with freely available painkillers, you should have any dental pain assessed by a dentist as soon as possible.


If you suffer from tooth decay, your teeth may become sensitive. This sensitivity can occur with eating or drinking, and often with very hot, cold or sweet foods.
Bad taste and smelly breath / Source: Syda Productions /

Bad breath

Everyone has bad breath from time to time, but if you find yourself having bad breath that doesn't go away even after brushing or using mouthwash, this may be a sign of an even more persistent problem.

Stains on teeth

If you notice gray, black or brown stains on your teeth, it is very possible that they are caused by tooth decay.

Bad taste in the mouth

If bad breath is caused by tooth decay, then you often experience a persistent, bad taste in the mouth that you do not easily lose. If this problem does not disappear after eating, drinking, brushing or rinsing, this may be a sign of tooth decay or another dental problem.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, it is very important to make an appointment with your dentist.
Drinking water is healthy / Source: Mimagephotography /

Self-care bad taste in the mouth

General measures

There are some measures you can take at home to relieve and even prevent bad taste in your mouth:
  • Drink plenty of water and chew on sugar-free chewing gum to increase saliva production.
  • Exercise good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes and floss daily. Go to your dentist for a check-up every six months.
  • Reduce the risk of reflux by losing weight when overweight, avoid spicy or fatty foods, stop smoking, limit your alcohol consumption and eat small, frequent meals instead of large ones.
  • Ask your doctor to change medicines if you notice that a certain medicine gives a bitter taste. Never stop taking medicines on your own.

Wash out mouth with baking soda

Baking soda can neutralize bacteria that cause a bad taste in your mouth after eating. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is naturally alkaline and can help reduce harmful acid in your mouth. It is recommended to rinse your mouth with baking soda if you experience bitterness in your mouth. If the bad taste in your mouth is caused by heartburn, it can help reduce the amount of acid in your stomach by drinking cleansing water. Baking soda is an effective and natural remedy for heartburn. Mix half a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. Then drink this mixture; do this after the (warm) meal or early in the morning.
Scraping the tongue
Brush or scrape your tongue to get rid of bad taste in your mouth. Brushing your tongue helps remove bacteria and yeasts that accumulate there and disrupt your taste. You can use a tongue scraper for this.

Eating citrus fruits

Eating citrus fruits can help remove a bad taste from your mouth. This is especially useful if you have a bad taste in your mouth due to aging, a wound, pregnancy or cancer, because the sharp taste of the citrus fruits stimulates the taste buds. Fruits such as lemons, oranges and grapefruits also help to get more saliva and to flush the bad taste out of your mouth.

Treatment of bad taste in the mouth

Examination and diagnosis

Treatment of a chronic bad taste in the mouth will depend on what the underlying cause is. The doctor or general practitioner will first inquire about your complaints, review your medical history and review the medication you are taking and then perform a physical examination. Sometimes blood tests are needed to exclude underlying disorders.

Medical treatment

If acid reflux causes bad taste, the doctor may prescribe antacids; these drugs neutralize the heartburn. When it comes to type 2 diabetes, the doctor can prescribe a medicine such as metformin. Metformin lowers blood glucose. If it is known that certain medicines you take cause bad taste, the doctor may prescribe an alternative.

Referral to a specialist

The doctor can also refer you to:
  • a dentist when suspected that the bad taste is related to a dental problem.
  • an endocrinologist if it is associated with a disease such as diabetes mellitus.
  • a rheumatologist if it appears that you have Sjögren's syndrome.

Prognosis foul taste in the mouth

Having a bad taste in your mouth, even if you don't eat or drink anything bitter, is a common problem. Most causes are treatable.

Video: AGEUSIA Symptoms, Causes & Treatments (February 2020).

Leave Your Comment