Bitter Taste in Mouth: Causes and Treatments
A bitter taste in your mouth can be caused by a number of conditions ranging from poor dental hygiene to digestive problems and lifestyle choices. Sometimes the bad taste in your mouth can be a side effect of some medications. Also, smoking interferes with your taste buds and can leave you with a constant unpleasant taste in your mouth. Many women who are pregnant experience a sour taste in their mouth due to hormonal changes in their bodies.
In most cases, the sensation of a bitter taste in your mouth goes away when the underlying cause is addressed. For example, if heartburn is causing a bitter feeling in your mouth, reducing stomach acid levels can help cure the bitter taste. Taking good care of your teeth by regular brushing and flossing may be all that you need to get rid of the bitter taste in your mouth. Very often, eating foods that stimulate your taste buds and saliva flow can help to alleviate the feeling of bitterness in your mouth.
It’s important to find the root cause of the altered taste sensations to get rid of the sour taste. For many people, having a recurrent or constant bitter taste affects their eating habits because they no longer find pleasure in eating nutritious meals.
In this article, you will find out about the many causes of a having a bitter taste in your mouth. You will also find out what home remedies are useful in helping to regain your sense of taste again.
The Importance of Treating the Causes of Bitter Taste in the Mouth
The medical term for having an altered taste in your mouth is dysgeusia. Dr. John P. Cunha on MedicineNet.com says that dysgeusia causes a person to have a persistent foul, salty, rancid, or bitter sensation in the mouth.1
Doctors have found that, when left untreated, a constant bitter taste in the mouth can have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life.
For example, stroke can also damage taste buds and alter the patient’s sense of taste. Doctors found that often this can lead to malnutrition because the patient starts eating less. Having an impaired sense of taste also causes some to add more salt to food to improve its taste, however, in time, this can lead to coronary problems. Some people also suffer from depression and stop engaging in social activities.2
So, treating the causes of a bitter taste in the mouth is very important to improve the quality of life. In many cases, even taking small steps to help stimulate the taste buds or enhance the taste of food can be helpful in managing the feeling of a bad taste in your mouth.
Causes of Bitter Taste in the Mouth
There are thousands of taste sensory nerve cells in our mouths. Each of these plays a role in helping you to taste bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and savory (umami) flavors. When you eat, these nerves combine with heat, cold, texture, and aroma to create a perception of flavor. If any of these sensations are altered or damaged, you could end up having a constant bitter or sour taste in your mouth.
Here are some of the most common reasons for having the sensation of a bitter mouth.
Poor oral hygiene
Poor oral hygiene can be a reason for having a bitter taste in your mouth. The bad taste can become worse depending on what you eat and if you smoke or not. Regularly brushing and flossing teeth helps to remove bacteria from between teeth and around the gums and prevent gum disease.
According to dentist Dr. Alfred D. Wyatt Jr., a persistent bad taste in your mouth could be a sign of gum disease. This occurs when bacteria in the mouth build up and cause plaque to form. If this is not treated properly, it can affect your gums and jawbone.3 The first sign of gum disease is inflamed gums that bleed easily.
The bitter taste in your mouth could also come from bacteria that forms under dental appliances that don’t fit properly.
Heartburn / GERD
A bitter taste in your mouth could be due to stomach acid coming back up the esophagus causing heartburn or acid reflux.
A valve between the esophagus and stomach should keep stomach juices in the stomach, however, if the valve is weak or damaged, the acids will cause a burning sensation in the stomach and chest and also cause a sour or bitter taste in the mouth.
The reason for having a bitter taste in your mouth could be because of one or more medications that you are taking. Taste disturbance is a common side effect of many over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications.
Dr. Wyatt on WebMD says that some drugs cause a bitter, metallic, or salty taste in your mouth. This impaired sense of taste is usually temporary and should stop if you change your medication. Some common drugs that cause taste changes are chemotherapy drugs, antihistamines, antibiotics, and some hypertension medications.4
So, if you have noticed a bitter taste in your mouth that you can’t get rid of since starting to take a certain medication, speak to your doctor to see if he can change it.
Having an infection
Infections can alter how your taste buds react and cause a bitter taste in your mouth. Very often people who suffer from the cold or flu complain that food tastes bitter and sour. This happens because of an immune reaction in the body which affects sensitivity to bitter taste.
A study published by the Monell Center found that infections, autoimmune disorders, and chronic inflammatory diseases release a protein called tumor necrosis factor (TNF) which causes inflammation and increases bitterness in the mouth. The researchers found that the bitter or sour taste is caused because of how the taste buds on the tongue react to TNF rather than how the brain processes taste sensations.5
That helps to explain why everything usually tastes bad when we are sick.
Taste changes are one of the symptoms that you can expect if you are pregnant. Many women say that they feel like they have a metallic or sour taste in their mouth.
Hormonal changes can cause changes in the way that you perceive taste and smell. This usually only affects the first few months of pregnancy and should go away by the second trimester.
Some of the home remedies for a bitter taste in the mouth at the end of the article can help to improve the taste of certain foods and get rid of the metallic taste in your mouth.
One side effect of many cancer treatments is that it changes your sense of taste leaving you with a bitter or metallic taste in your mouth.
According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, chemotherapy can irritate the taste buds and disrupt the bacteria balance in your mouth. You may be more prone to infections which can also interfere with your taste sensations. They recommend rinsing your mouth frequently with baking soda to neutralize bad tastes in the mouth and prevent oral infections.6
If a dry mouth causes a bitter taste, then chewing gum or hard candies can help to stimulate the saliva flow and relieve mouth dryness.
If you have a constant sour mouth, it could be due to a severe vitamin deficiency in your body. Vitamins and nutrients are needed for the body to function properly, including its taste and smell functions.
For example, Dr. Colin Tidy on Patient.info says that zinc is needed for the senses of taste and smell. Before taking zinc supplements, Dr. Tidy advises checking for zinc deficiency, as too much zinc can also lead to a bad taste in the mouth as well as other complications.7
The Harvard Medical School says that a B12 deficiency can also cause loss of taste.8
Another reason for your sense of taste changing is a traumatic brain injury. The injury can affect any of your sensory organs and leave you with a persistent bad taste in your mouth.
One of the ways that smoking damages your health is that it impairs your sense of taste and can be the reason for experiencing a constant bitter taste in your mouth. The reason that smoking causes a bad taste is that cigarettes contain toxic chemicals that damage taste buds.
A study published in the journal Chemosensory Perception found that in smokers, it is the taste buds that detect bitter tastes that are most affected. Usually, if a person stops smoking, the taste buds start to become more responsive and taste generally improves.11 However, people who have smoked for many years may find that their taste buds never get back to normal.
Some people who give up smoking report that initially they have a terrible taste in their mouth. But, this will improve with time.
Oral thrush is a yeast infection that affects the mouth and causes white patches and spots to appear on the throat and tongue.
According to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, an unpleasant taste in your mouth is one of the symptoms of an oral yeast infection.12
As we age, we lose many of our taste buds, and this causes many older people to experience a bitter taste in their mouth. This can have many health implications for elderly people because of missing out on a lack of nutrients in their diet.
Research published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal found that taste impairment among elderly people is very common. A number of factors contribute to many elderly people having a bitter taste in their mouth. These are, loss of sensory taste buds, increased use of medication, and a reduction in saliva production.13
Home Treatments for a Bitter Taste in the Mouth
There are many home remedies which can help to stimulate your taste buds, get more saliva flowing and get rid of a bitter taste in your mouth.
Good oral hygiene
Having good oral hygiene habits prevents a buildup of bacteria and helps to get rid of a bad taste in your mouth.
Dentists recommend brushing your teeth twice a day, and preferably after each meal to prevent having a foul taste in your mouth. You should also brush your teeth for 2-3 minutes, which is long enough to make sure and remove bacteria, leftover food, and plaque. You should also floss regularly to remove all leftover bits from between your teeth.13
Did you know that there are 10 mistakes that most people make when brushing their teeth? Check out my article to find out if you are making one of them.
Baking soda can help to neutralize bacteria which causes a bitter taste in your mouth after eating. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is naturally alkaline and can help to reduce harmful acid in your mouth.
The National Cancer Institute recommends rinsing your mouth with baking soda if you suffer from bitterness in your mouth. You should mix 1/4 tsp. baking soda and 1/2 tsp. salt in a cup of warm water. Swish the mixture around your mouth to help reduce the bitter taste in your mouth. Rinse with water afterwards.
If the bitter taste in your mouth is caused by heartburn, you can help to reduce the levels of acid in your stomach by drinking baking soda water. Baking soda is an effective and natural remedy for heartburn. Mix 1/2 tsp. of baking soda in a glass of water. Drink after each meal to get relief from the discomfort caused by heartburn.
Brush / scrape tongue
Brush or scrape your tongue to help get rid of a bitter taste in your mouth. Brushing your tongue helps to clear bacteria and yeasts that collect there and interfere with your taste.
To clean your tongue from bacteria, gently brush the surface of the tongue back and forward and from side to side. Rinse with water. Do this at least once a day after cleaning your teeth to help keep your mouth fresh and with a clean taste.
Eat citrus fruits
Eating citrus fruits can help to remove a sensation of bitterness from your mouth. This is especially useful if you have a bad taste in your mouth due to aging, injury, pregnancy, or cancer treatment because the sharp taste of the citrus fruits helps to stimulate your taste buds.
Fruits like lemons, oranges, and grapefruits also help more saliva to flow and thus flush the bad taste from your mouth.
Read my other related articles:
1. 8 Warning Signs Your Tongue May Be Sending
2. Bumps on Tongue: Causes and Natural Treatments
3. How to Heal a Burnt Tongue Quickly: The Best Natural Remedies