Bitter oral taste: causes, symptoms and remedies

A bitter taste in the mouth, which is not caused by a bitter substance, indicates a disturbed sense of taste.

Changes or decreases in the sense of taste are called dysgeusia.

In some cases of bitter taste, it is a simple disorder that can be easily treated, but in other cases, a bad taste in the mouth can be the symptom of a condition that needs to be treated.

There are some simple remedies that can alleviate or even cure the problem.

How does it work? Physiology of taste

The sense of taste allows us to distinguish indigestible food from tasty ones.

Foods that contain essential mineral salts or more calories are generally:

  • Salted
  • Sweet
  • Spicy.

In contrast, we reject bitter substances, which are often toxic. Many plants and animals secrete bitter-tasting substances in order not to be eaten. (Reynolds, 2005).

These bitter chemicals can cause symptoms such as nausea and sometimes lead to death. (Barlow, 1999, Liener, 1970).

The sense of taste can also detect sour or sour tastes that indicate fermented or rotten foods. (Reed e Knaapila, 2011, Breslin, 2013).

The sense of taste comes mainly from the taste buds:

  • On the tongue,
  • In the throat.

These structures are receptors that convert the taste stimuli (sweet, bitter, sour, salty) into electrochemical signals.

The taste buds send the signals to the sensory neurons that transmit the information in the brain via three cranial nerves:

  • Facialis,
  • glossopharyngeus,
  • Vagus nerve.


Causes of bitter taste in the mouth

Bitter and metallic taste in the mouth can indicate an infection or numerous other conditions. Therefore, a doctor’s visit is important to clarify that there is no serious cause. If breathing and swallowing difficulties become noticeable, the emergency room of a hospital should be visited immediately.

  1. Medication

One of the most common causes of a bitter taste in the mouth is probably medication.

The bad taste can be caused by the following medicines:

  • antibiotics, such as clarithromycin,
  • medicines for heart and blood pressure, such as propafenone,
  • anti-cancer agents, such as carboplatin,
  • antithyroidism, such as propylthiouracil,
  • diabetes drugs, such as metformin,
  • means for heartburn, such as dexlansoprazole,
  • medicines for glaucoma, such as methazolamide,
  • medicines for osteoporosis, such as vitamin D supplements,
  • sleeping pills, such as eszopiclone,
  • bronchodilators in asthma,
  • Antidepressants containing lithium.
  1. Inhaled substances

I think it’s easy to imagine that smoking affects the taste in the mouth negatively as it acts on the taste buds. Other environmental chemical products that are inhaled may leave a metallic taste in the mouth, such as:

  • Mercury
  • (Dr. Rabovsky –
  1. Disorders of the nervous system

Another possible cause of bitter oral taste may be a disorder of the nervous system.

The problem in this case lies in the brain or along the peripheral nerves that receive the olfactory and taste signals.

Tumors, inflammatory diseases and autoimmune diseases can affect the nervous system and cause a metallic taste in the mouth.

  1. Dental problems

The gums, infections of the gums, other diseases of the gums, tooth abscesses and pyorrhea (disorders in the periodontium) are possible causes of bitter and bad taste in the mouth.

Also, ulcers in the mouth can provoke a bitter taste.

  1. Diseases

Those who suffer from diseases such as cancer, diabetes, jaundice, liver or kidney insufficiency may feel a bitter taste in their mouth.

  1. Inadequate oral hygiene

Inadequate oral hygiene can bring a bitter taste in the mouth. If the teeth are not brushed, food residues accumulate between the teeth and a putrefactive process begins, which can cause bad breath and various other oral problems.

The bitter taste is stronger in the morning because less saliva is produced at night; therefore:

  • If the mouth is dry,
  • Smells bad the breath.
  1. Pregnancy

During pregnancy, in some moments – before nausea or vomiting – bad smell may occur in the mouth.

This is usually due to hormonal imbalance. Bitter taste is a general problem for pregnant women, which usually disappears on its own after a few days.

Peppermint or lemon sweets are a good way to get rid of the unpleasant taste.

  1. Mycosis

Fungal infections, including infections caused by yeasts, can be treated with fungal (antifungal) drugs and ointments. However, until a complete cure, the patient may feel a bad taste in the mouth and suffer from bad breath.

  1. Gastroesophageal reflux. The acidic reflux often causes a bitter taste in the mouth.
    Here, the gastric juices are pressed upwards towards the neck.

Causes of gastroesophageal reflux include:

  • Sumptuous meals,
  • fats and spicy foods,
  • Irregular eating habits.

Other symptoms accompanying gastric acidification include:

  • burning in the mouth,
  • Bad breath,
  • Heartburn
  • pain behind the sternum,
  • dry cough, nausea,
  • Sore throat.
  1. Excess zinc

Excess zinc can cause bad breath.

The following foods contain a lot of zinc:

  • Oysters/Shellfish
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Calf’s liver
  • Roasted wheat germ
  • Lamb

11. Gallstones

Stones in the gallbladder hinder the flow of bile towards the intestine.

The blockage allows the bile to flow back into the stomach and can thus cause bile reflux.

Symptoms of bile reflux include a bitter taste in the mouth after eating.

What accompanying symptoms can occur with the bitter taste in the mouth?

Bitter taste in the mouth can occur alone or along with other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying condition.

Possible symptoms that may occur along with bitter mouth taste include:

  • Bad breath,
  • Bleeding gums (for gingivitis or pyorrhea)
  • Altered facial expression due to a disorder of the facial nerve
  • Xerostomia
  • Excessive salivation (caused by gastroesophageal reflux)
  • Flu-like symptoms (tiredness, fever, sore throat, headache, cough, joint pain)
  • Nasal congestion (due to catarrh)
  • Swollen or inflamed tonsils
  • Vomit.

Serious symptoms that may indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, the bitter taste of the mouth may be a sign of a serious or dangerous condition that requires immediate medical attention in the emergency room, such as swallowing a poisonous plant or chemical.

Some possible serious symptoms that may occur along with bitter mouth taste include:

  • impairment of the state of consciousness and alertness or mental confusion,
  • difficulty breathing, breathlessness or shortness of breath,
  • inability to swallow,
  • Facial paralysis
  • Sudden swelling of the mouth, lips or tongue.

Natural remedies for bitter mouth taste

If the bitter taste in the mouth does not pass through any of the listed home remedies, a visit to the dentist is recommended.

  1. Follow a thorough oral care

Sometimes oral hygiene is not sufficient. When brushing your teeth, you should also clean the gums and tongue with the toothbrush. After brushing your teeth, it is also advisable to use a mouthwash.

This should be done at least twice a day.

The use of dental floss is extremely important and is highly recommended by dentists.

Flossing should be done at least three to four times a week, ideally once a day.

  1. Our grandparents’ old home remedies include sodium bicarbonate and ordinary table salt.

Put some bicarbonate and table salt on the toothbrush and brush teeth, gums and tongue with it. Dental infections and bacterial plaque can be eliminated in this way.

Good results can be achieved if this cleaning is done twice a day.

  1. Salivation-stimulating foods

Eating foods that cause increased salivation is a good way to eliminate bitter or metallic taste in the mouth. Citrus fruits such as grapefruit and oranges are suitable for this.

  1. Change of eating habits

If the nasty taste in the mouth is a result of poor digestion, you should pay close attention to what you eat. You should refrain from spicy, fried foods and always eat only small meals.

You should chew well and eat slowly.

  1. Mask bad breath

Candies and chewing gum with peppermint flavor help in the short term to mask the bitter taste. If you don’t like peppermint, you can suck citrus fruit candies.

  1. Drink more water

Water is a good form of treatment to remove toxins from the mouth and reduce the amount of acid in the stomach that causes the bitter taste.

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