Medical News Today: Why do I have a salty taste in my mouth?

Stock SectorMarch 13, 201815min12
<div>A long-lasting salty taste can signal an underlying illness, infection, or hormone deficiency. Learn more about causes and treatments here.</div>
Eating salty foods will often leave an aftertaste in the mouth. However, when this taste is present for a long time, it may be a symptom of an underlying issue.

A salty or odd taste is usually not a cause for concern, but these symptoms can be annoying or distracting.

Some causes of a lasting salty taste require a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment. In the meantime, home remedies can help to relieve the symptom.

Fast facts about a salty taste in the mouth:

  • There are many possible causes of this symptom.
  • Treatment will involve addressing the underlying cause.
  • Many causes of a salty taste in the mouth are easy to treat.

Causes

Some causes are harmless, while others may require a visit to a doctor or dentist.

Postnasal drip

Salty taste in mouth
Causes of a salty taste in the mouth may include dehydration, blood in the mouth, and medical conditions.

Postnasal drip is common and may due to issues such as:

  • allergies
  • sinus infections
  • the common cold

Postnasal drip involves excess mucus in the nasal passages dripping from the back of the nose down the throat. The presence of this mucus may cause saliva to taste saltier than usual.

Over-the-counter medications can help to clear up a postnasal drip, which will likely eliminate the salty taste.

Dehydration

Dehydration can lead to an odd taste and other symptoms, such as dry mouth. When the body is short on liquids, it can cause saliva to become rich in salty minerals, because there is an imbalance in the levels of salt and water in the body.

Symptoms of dehydration that usually appear with an odd taste include:

  • fatigue or exhaustion
  • confusion
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • dark yellow or orange urine
  • infrequent urination
  • extreme thirst

Issues such as diarrhea or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause dehydration. People who exercise vigorously without drinking enough water may also become dehydrated.

It is important to watch for signs of dehydration throughout the day and add liquids to the diet accordingly.

Dry mouth

Dry mouth is one symptom of dehydration, but it can be a separate condition. The term for dryness in the mouth is xerostomia. People with xerostomia may feel as though they have cotton balls in their mouths, and may also experience dry or sticky saliva. The saliva can taste strange, often bitter or salty.

Some medications can cause dry mouth. The symptom can also be linked to tobacco use or an underlying condition. However, a stuffy nose is often enough to dry out the mouth, as a person is forced to breathe through their mouth instead of their nose.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD may be responsible for a lasting salty taste. The disease occurs when the esophageal sphincter weakens, allowing bile or stomach acid to creep up into the food pipe. This will lead to a burning sensation in the chest, along with other symptoms.

GERD can also cause an unusual taste in the mouth, often described as bitter, sour, or salty.

Blood in the mouth

When the saltiness also tastes like rust or metal, this can indicate the presence of blood in the mouth. Eating sharp foods, such as chips or hard candies can cause bleeding. A person may also injure their gums while flossing or brushing their teeth.

A salty taste after brushing or flossing can be an early symptom of gingivitis. This can be diagnosed and treated by a dentist.

Infections

Periodontitis
Periodontitis may be a cause of a salty taste in the mouth.

When gingivitis remains untreated, it may lead to an oral infection, such as periodontitis. If this is left untreated, it can have lasting effects on teeth and bones.

Periodontitis may lead to a salty or iron-like taste. It can also cause:

  • loose teeth
  • pus under the teeth
  • open sores in the gums
  • sore, aching gums
  • bad breath

Other infections may also lead to a salty taste, including oral thrush. This yeast infection causes white blotches to appear in the mouth, and an unusual sensitivity or a burning sensation in the mouth. They may have difficulty tasting or experience a bitter, metallic, or salty taste.

Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) can also cause an odd taste in the mouth. If symptoms are not managed, HPV can cause a person to cough up blood, resulting in a metallic or salty taste.

Nutritional deficiencies

A salty taste can result from missing or low levels of nutrients. If a doctor suspects that this is the case, they will test the blood to determine which nutrients are lacking. Treatment usually involves some form of supplementation.

Medical conditions

Some conditions that affect the brain or nerves can also affect the tongue, leading to an odd or salty taste. These can include nervous conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Bell’s palsy, or even a brain tumor. A person with a head or neck injury may also experience symptoms of nerve damage.

Sjögren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder, can cause dryness of the eyes and mouth. It may be responsible for a lasting salty taste, as well as joint pain, fatigue, and organ dysfunction.

Hormonal imbalances

Hormonal imbalances, such as those experienced during menopause or pregnancy, can cause changes in taste buds, leading to strange tastes.

Side effects of medication

Some medicines can dry out the mouth or seep into the saliva, leading to an odd taste. A doctor can help to identify whether the taste is a side effect of a medication.

Some cancer treatments can affect the taste buds, leading to odd tastes. People receiving these treatments may also experience dry mouth, another common cause of a lasting salty taste.

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Treatment options

The correct treatment for a salty taste in the mouth will depend on the cause. For many people, drinking a few extra glasses of water throughout the day will be enough to eliminate the symptom. Others may need to visit a doctor or dentist for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis

To determine the cause of the salty taste, a doctor will often examine the mouth, then ask about diet, lifestyle, and medications. The doctor may also order tests or blood work to rule out possible causes. When the doctor identifies the cause of the salty taste, they will recommend treatment.

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Complications

Neglecting to treat any condition can lead to complications and worsening symptoms. Anyone who experiences persistent changes in taste with no known cause should visit a doctor as soon as possible.

Home remedies

woman cleaning her teeth and holding glass of mouthwash
Practising daily oral hygiene and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash are recommended as a remedy for a salty taste.

While waiting for diagnosis and treatment, many people find relief by using home remedies. Some remedies for a salty taste include:

  • practicing daily oral hygiene
  • rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash
  • chewing sugar-free gum
  • drinking plenty of water throughout the day
  • reducing alcohol or tobacco consumption
  • avoiding greasy or spicy foods

The cause of a salty taste in the mouth may be simple. A doctor can help to identify the impact of any medications or supplements. Some people find that the symptom disappears when they change medications.

Treatments are most effective when guided by a healthcare professional.

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