Why Do I Have a Bitter Taste in My Mouth?

Sep 25, 2022 | Dental Health

Why Do I Have a Bitter Taste in My Mouth?

When you drink a glass of lemonade, a bitter or sour taste is common, but it normally disappears after a little time or after brushing your teeth. However, if you have a bitter taste in your mouth that lingers or remains for an extended time and doesn’t improve after brushing your teeth, it can be an indication of an underlying condition.

Here we take a closer look at the causes of bitter or unpleasant tastes in the mouth, what they may mean, and how your doctor or general dentist can help improve your taste.

Key Takeaways

  • Dysgeusia is a persistent bad taste in the mouth (bitter, metallic, rancid, or salty).
  • Common causes include poor oral hygiene, burning mouth syndrome, dry mouth, oral thrush, GERD, pregnancy, menopause, pine nut syndrome, illnesses, stress, and nerve damage.
  • Regular brushing, flossing, dental exams, and reducing stress may help improve taste.
  • Underlying conditions like GERD, pregnancy, and menopause can cause temporary taste changes.
  • Pine nut syndrome causes bitter/metallic taste from eating pine nuts, usually resolves on its own.

Signs and symptoms

When you have a persistent bad taste in your mouth, this is known as dysgeusia and is often described as a bitter, metallic, rancid, or salty taste that does not go away or improve. Oftentimes this can make it hard to taste the foods and beverages you eat and drink throughout the day. In addition, this bad taste does not go away after brushing your teeth.


Living with a bad taste in your mouth that doesn’t go away can be very frustrating. The good news is that, in most cases, the underlying causes are not serious and, when addressed, the taste will usually go away.

Here we look at some of the most common causes of a bitter taste.

1. Oral health issues

Several different oral health issues can contribute to lingering bad tastes in the mouth.

Dental concerns

Poor oral hygiene is one of the most common causes of bad taste in the mouth. This can be due to dental decay, infections, and gum disease. Regular brushing, flossing, and dental exams and checkups can help ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy and reduce the risk of bad taste developing in your mouth.

Poor oral hygiene is one of the most common causes of bad taste in the mouth. This can be due to dental decay, infections, and gum disease. Regular brushing, flossing, and dental exams and checkups can help ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy and reduce the risk of bad taste developing in your mouth.

Burning mouth syndrome

Burning mouth syndrome is a condition that causes a burning sensation, much like after you eat spicy foods. In addition to this odd sensation, many also experience a bitter or rancid taste.

Dry mouth

A dry mouth, known as xerostomia, is a condition that can be a symptom of an underlying condition, such as Sjogren’s or caused by medications and tobacco use. Having a dry mouth means you have reduced levels of saliva and, because saliva helps reduce bacterial buildup in the mouth, you can experience increased bacterial levels, contributing to a bitter or foul taste in the mouth.

Oral thrush

Oral thrush, also known as oral candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans and is considered a yeast infection of the mouth. While Candida albicans is a naturally occurring fungus that is found in and on the body, but, when allowed to overgrow, this fungus can cause creamy white lesions and a white coating of the tongue, often described as cottage cheese-like in nature. This overgrowth contributes to the bitter or unpleasant taste you experience.

Woman suffering from GERD

2. Gastrointestinal issues

Gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD, is another underlying condition that is a common cause of a bitter taste in the mouth. When you have GERD, the sphincter at the top of the stomach is not as effective at blocking acid and bile from coming back up. As this acid and bile rise, you may feel a burning sensation in the chest or abdomen, a sore throat, and a foul or bitter taste in the mouth.

Pregnant woman sitting on the bed

3. Other potential causes


A bitter or metallic taste is common during the first trimester of pregnancy as the hormones in the body adjust. This typically resolves itself later in the pregnancy or after giving birth.


Changes in hormone levels, such as estrogen, occur during menopause and, much like during pregnancy, these changes can contribute to a regular bitter or metallic taste in the mouth.

Pine nut syndrome

While not actually nuts, pine nuts are a seed that many people enjoy as a snack or as an addition to a favorite recipe. However, for some people, eating pine nuts can cause a bitter or metallic taste that can develop a few days after eating the nuts. The good news is this condition resolves on its own within a few days to weeks.


Illnesses, such as the cold or flu, can also affect your ability to taste. While more than often it can make tasting anything difficult, inflammatory proteins used by your body to fight the illness can alter your taste buds, making things taste different than normal, often causing a bitter taste.


High levels of stress and anxiety can contribute to changes in the body that can include dry mouth and alterations to taste. Reducing your stress and anxiety through meditation may be able to help return your taste to normal.

Nerve damage

Taste buds are connected to nerves that send signals to the brain, allowing you to experience taste. When these nerves are damaged, your sense of taste can often become altered. Nerve damage affecting the taste buds can often occur due to head injuries, epilepsy, brain tumors, or conditions like multiple sclerosis and Bell’s palsy.

Medications and supplements

Certain medications, such as antibiotics and cardiac drugs, as well as vitamins containing minerals and metals, such as iron, can affect your taste in several ways. Some medications can lead to dry mouth, which can contribute to bitter or foul tastes. In addition, some medications can affect your saliva, giving it a distinct taste.

Woman on a dental chair talking to the dentist

When should you be concerned?

While most causes of a bitter taste are not serious, having these tastes all the time can affect your quality of life. If you continue to experience taste changes, even after brushing your teeth, it may be a good idea to visit your doctor or dentist to determine the underlying cause and how you can treat it.

Home remedies

The good news is there are many different remedies and tips you can do from home to help improve your sense of taste and reduce bitterness.

    • Follow a good oral hygiene routine
    • Drink plenty of fluids
    • Chew sugar-free gum to help boost saliva production
    • Stop smoking
    • Limit acidic foods that can contribute to acid
    • Talk to your doctor about medications for acid reflux and GERD
    • If the bitter taste develops after a new medication, talk with your doctor about possible alternatives.

Keeping your mouth feeling fresh and clean

Having a bitter taste in your mouth is not an uncommon condition and the good news is it usually isn’t a sign of anything serious. That being said, it can be very disruptive to your lifestyle and ability to enjoy eating.

At New Leaf Rohnert Park, we understand the importance of good oral health and how changes to your taste can be frustrating. Our team of professionals can identify potential oral concerns that may be contributing to your changes in taste and offer treatment options that help you get your taste back to normal. To learn more, schedule an appointment today.

Eddie Kuo, DDS

Eddie Kuo, DDS

Owner @ New Leaf Rohnert Park

Professional Degrees

University of California at Davis – BS in Biological Sciences with emphasis in Neurology, Physiology, Behaviors

University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, Doctorate of Dental Surgery

State University of New York at Buffalo – General Practice Residency at Erie County Medical Center

Front Office Staff On Phone Taking Appointment

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