What causes taste disturbances and how to treat them?

Symptom Database

Taste disturbances, also known as taste disorders or taste abnormalities, refer to changes in the perception of taste. These alterations can range from a complete loss of taste to a distorted sense of taste. Taste impairment can significantly impact one’s quality of life, as it affects the enjoyment of food and beverages. Understanding the causes of taste disturbances and how to treat them is crucial for individuals experiencing these issues.

What are taste disturbances?

Taste disturbances encompass a wide range of taste-related problems, including:

  • Loss of taste
  • Altered taste sensation
  • Changes in taste perception
  • Taste dysfunction

These taste disorder symptoms can manifest in various ways, such as a metallic or bitter taste in the mouth, a reduced ability to taste certain flavors, or a complete inability to taste anything at all.

Causes of taste disturbances

There are several factors that can contribute to taste disturbances:

1. Medications:

Many medications can affect the sense of taste. Some drugs may directly alter taste perception, while others can cause dry mouth, which can indirectly impact taste sensation.

2. Infections and illnesses:

Certain infections, such as respiratory tract infections or sinusitis, can lead to taste abnormalities. Additionally, illnesses like the common cold or flu can temporarily affect taste perception.

3. Dental problems:

Oral health issues, such as gum disease, tooth decay, or oral infections, can cause taste disturbances. These problems can alter the taste buds’ function and affect the ability to taste properly.

4. Aging:

As we age, our taste buds naturally become less sensitive, leading to a decreased ability to taste certain flavors. This age-related decline in taste perception can contribute to taste disturbances.

5. Nutritional deficiencies:

Deficiencies in certain nutrients, such as zinc or vitamin B12, can affect taste sensation. These deficiencies can be caused by poor diet or underlying health conditions.

6. Smoking:

Smoking can impair taste perception and lead to taste disturbances. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the taste buds and affect the ability to taste flavors accurately.

Treatment options for taste disturbances

While some taste disturbances may resolve on their own, others may require medical intervention. The treatment options for taste disorders depend on the underlying cause:

1. Medication adjustments:

If medications are causing taste disturbances, consulting with a healthcare professional to explore alternative medications or adjust dosages may help alleviate the problem.

2. Treating underlying conditions:

If taste disturbances are a result of an underlying illness or infection, treating the primary condition can often restore normal taste sensation. This may involve antibiotics, antiviral medications, or other appropriate treatments.

3. Dental care:

Addressing any dental problems, such as gum disease or tooth decay, can improve taste perception. Regular dental check-ups and maintaining good oral hygiene are essential for preventing taste disturbances related to oral health issues.

4. Nutritional supplements:

If nutritional deficiencies are causing taste disturbances, supplementation with the deficient nutrients may help restore taste sensation. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any supplements.

5. Lifestyle changes:

Adopting a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking, can contribute to overall well-being and potentially improve taste perception.

6. Taste training:

In some cases, taste training exercises may be recommended to help retrain the taste buds and improve taste perception. These exercises involve exposing the taste buds to different flavors and textures to enhance their sensitivity.


Taste disturbances can significantly impact one’s enjoyment of food and beverages. Understanding the causes of taste disturbances and the available treatment options is essential for individuals experiencing these issues. Whether it is adjusting medications, treating underlying conditions, or making lifestyle changes, there are various approaches to managing taste disorders. Consulting with a healthcare professional is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. By addressing the underlying causes and seeking appropriate treatment, individuals can regain their sense of taste and enhance their overall quality of life.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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