If you have been living with a sour or bitter taste in your mouth even for a day, you already know just how unpleasant this can be!
You can use mouthwash, suck on mints, chew gum, drink water….but somehow, the moment these temporary fixes wear off, the sour taste comes back again.
If you have been struggling with an unpleasant sour taste in the mouth for a longer period of time, it may even be starting to impact your quality of life. You don’t want to risk breathing on people because they will think you have bad breath.
Your co-workers are starting to joke about your mint addiction. The whole situation is just adding more stress to your already stressful life, and you want to get to the root of it.
In this article, learn everything you need to know about what causes a bitter or sour taste in the mouth, the major symptoms, how you can get an accurate diagnosis and what types of treatments are available.
What Causes Strange Taste in My Mouth?
The best-known cause of this health issue is GERD. Btw, GERD is an acronym that stands for Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease. While this term probably sounds daunting and scary, it is actually just a fancy way of saying “acid reflux.”
If GERD is the cause, the sour or bitter taste in your mouth is coming from stomach acids. But how do stomach acids find their way up to your mouth, you are likely wondering?
When your lower esophagus sphincter muscle, or LES, opens when it is not supposed to, stomach acids can travel back up your esophagus to reach your mouth.
But GERD is not the only reason why you may be experiencing this condition. This is especially true if you don’t have the sour taste all the time. Sometimes a certain food (like sugar) or lifestyle choices can cause a constant sour taste in the mouth temporarily.
Nicotine use, such as through smoking, is a very well-known cause of temporary unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Yet another potential cause, according to MedicineNet, is a less well known condition called dysgeusia.(1)
Dysgeusia means impaired taste sensations.
An impairment is not necessarily a loss of ability to taste. It can also mean you taste only a certain range of tastes, such as metallic, bitter, salty or rancid. Sometimes this is caused by neurological dysfunction, reports Cleveland Clinic.(2)
In most cases, dysgeusia is a temporary condition brought on by another situation. Often women in their first trimester of pregnancy report changes in taste perception.
Chemotherapy and radiation patients often experience this as well.
What are other possible causes?
Patients recovering from respiratory allergies and infections that cause post-nasal drip may also experience an impaired sense of taste from prescribed medication, from an impaired sense of smell or from the post-nasal drip, which is a food source for mouth bacteria.
Sometimes taking other medications (not for cancer) can also cause a lingering metallic, bitter or sour taste in the mouth. These side effects typically go away once you stop taking the medicine. If you didn’t have the sour taste before you started taking a particular medication, this might be the cause.
Also, a sour taste in the mouth can be caused by inadequate oral hygiene. The mouth is full of bacteria on a daily basis – this is just the way the mouth is.
But without brushing and flossing, the bacteria can build up and begin to cause side effects. If you have ever woken up from a long sleep with an awful taste in your mouth that caused you to rush to the bathroom to brush your teeth, you already know how this works.
According to Hows Health, the bacteria that causes this live at the back of the tongue.(3) The longer you go without brushing or using sanitizing mouthwash, the more the bacteria population can grow and increase, causing a strange taste and sometimes, bad breath.
Sleep is a particular aide to the bacteria colony, since saliva production decreases during night, and saliva is what breaks down these bacteria. If you breathe through your mouth when you sleep, the sour taste is likely to be even worse when you wake up.
Health Guidance states that if you are suffering from periodontal disease or another oral disease, this can also give rise to a sour taste in your mouth.(4)
Xerostomia, a condition where saliva production is decreased even while awake, can also cause a sour or bitter taste in the mouth because of bacteria proliferation.
In some cases, if you are having higher than normal stress and are experiencing anxiety or panic, this could cause a bad taste in your mouth, according to Anxiety Centre.(5)
While these are the best-known and most common reasons why you might have a sour taste in your mouth, this is not an exhaustive list. It is important to seek out a doctor’s care to identify the source accurately and receive the right treatment.
The main symptom of this health issue, not surprisingly, is the presence of the sour taste itself.
But there can be other symptoms as well, as WebMD reports:(6)
» Dry mouth.
» Upset stomach.
» Burning or pain associated with heartburn.
» Chest pain.
» Burning or warmth in the chest area.
» Sore throat.
» Difficulty with swallowing.
» Feeling like something is stuck in your throat.
» Too much or not enough saliva in the mouth.
» Presence of a peptic ulcer.
Knowing the exact symptoms you are experiencing can be very helpful for your doctor to accurately diagnosis the cause of the sour taste in your mouth. Here, keeping a symptoms log can help you pinpoint your specific symptoms.
Diagnosing Sour Taste
Once you have been struggling with a sour taste for even a few days, you can begin to feel impatient for it to end.
At this point, it is a good idea to make an appointment to see your doctor. This will help you get to the bottom of what is causing the sour taste in your mouth and begin the appropriate treatment.
Be sure to bring your symptoms log with you to your doctor’s appointment. If possible, consider reaching out to relatives as well to find out if anyone close to you has ever been diagnosed with GERD, dysgeusia or xerostomia.
Your doctor will want to take a complete personal and family medical history and a list of current medications and supplements. You can also expect to have a physical exam.
Since so many different potential causes may contribute to your experience of a sour taste in the mouth, your symptoms and the results of your physical exam will serve as the first resource to prescribe tests.
Because GERD is so well associated with a sour taste in the mouth, testing often begins here.
Your doctor may prescribe these tests:
» Esophageal tests. These tests look at the amount of stomach acid in the esophagus and how well the muscles in the esophageal tract move your food down to the stomach for digestion.
» Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. This test passes a small viewing device called an endoscope down into your esophagus and upper GI tract to see if the lining is compromised. This test can also be used to diagnose a peptic ulcer.
» Upper GI series. This test uses X-ray technology to take pictures of your gastrointestinal system to see if there may be other health issues causing the sour taste.
» Referral to the dentist. If the suspected cause of the sour taste is gingivitis, periodontal disease or poor oral hygiene, your doctor may refer you to your dentist for further evaluation.
» Referral to an otolaryngologist. If a taste disorder is suspected, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that a referral to an otolaryngologist, or Ear-Nose-Throat specialists, may be required.
The treatment for sour taste in the mouth will depend on the diagnosis. For GERD and peptic ulcers, often medication is the treatment of choice.
For medication-related side effects, the condition often resolves when you stop taking the medication.
Maintaining excellent oral hygiene is always part of the treatment regimen for any issue with a sour taste in the mouth.
If this condition is caused by respiratory illness, receiving treatment to resolve the illness will usually resolve the sour taste as well.
If you are struggling with a persistent sour taste in the mouth, you don’t have to continue to endure this alone.
Follow these steps to get help fast:
» Keep a symptoms log.
» Make an appointment with your doctor.
» Be prepared with a list of medications and supplements, your symptoms log and a personal and family medical history.
» Have the prescribed tests to get an accurate diagnosis.
» Follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations.