Why do you sometimes get a metallic or metal taste in your mouth?
Our mouth, like the rest of our body, was designed to allow electrical impulses or signals to be transmitted along nerve pathways and to facilitate energy or chemical reactions inside cells and between cells. All this is part of the magic of life.
Electricity or electrical signals are essential to all biological processes. In our body, electrical signals are carried through the nervous system, moving information to and from the brain. Electrical signals communicate to our brain what the eyes see, what the ears hear, what the fingers feel, and what our tongue tastes. Electrical signals from our brain causes our muscle movements. Electrical signals cause each heartbeat.
The flow of electrical energy depends on a cellular liquid environment, filled with dissolved electrolytes and enzymes. Dissolved electrolytes are minerals in solution that help conduct electric currents, and enzymes are naturally occurring, reusable protein substances that dramatically speed up biological reactions in the body. Enzymes are key players in this fluid electrical energy dance. That is why water composes such a significant part of our body. In one sense, our bodies are like rechargeable, constantly functioning batteries.
So how do you get a metallic or metal taste in your mouth?
All metals, depending on the number of electrons surrounding their atoms, have different energy levels. If a metal substance composed of two or more different metals is placed in a solution containing salt, the salt solution will facilitate the flow of electrons, or electrical energy, from one metal to the other. This movement of electrical energy from metals of one energy level to metals of a different energy level is exactly how a battery works. The more reactive, less stable metal will chemically corrode as it produces electrical currents by releasing atoms into the electrolytic solution containing salt or other minerals.
If the salt solution happens to be the fluid of our bodies, such as saliva, or cellular fluid or blood, and the metals happen to be the components of a dental filling material, or dental crown material, or implants, or metal parts of braces, then the same thing will happen to the dental material. It will function like a battery. Electricity will flow from one metal to another, chemically corroding the less stable metal. The result is that we may taste the metal being released into our saliva and contacting the specialized cells (primarily on our tongue, soft palate and throat) called taste buds. Often the taste is described as similar to having a metal utensil, like a spoon or a fork in the mouth all the time.
Not all metal tastes in the mouth come from dental materials. There are other reasons for a metallic taste in your mouth. Some medicines can cause it. So can some medical problems. But if you have metal in your mouth, and you have a metallic taste in your mouth, it is highly likely that the taste is being caused by corrosion of the metal. If you are also taking medicines for a medical problem, then it may be necessary to consult with the physician who is treating you, for any possible connection of the metallic taste with your medicines or medical condition.
Is there any harm from a metallic or metal taste in your mouth?
The electrical energy created by the dental filling battery, or other metals in our mouth, produces an electric current of different energy output and frequency than the biological energy produced by our bodies. The metal dental filling may interfere with the natural, biological, electrical energy flow. It’s like putting the wrong batteries in a computer or toy. Our brains produce an enormous amount of electrical energy at a very low power output. Adding even a little more power to this energy flow is disruptive to the biologically created electrical current, and can only have long term negative consequences that we don’t fully understand.
It gets worse. For many years the dental profession claimed that corrosion of ‘silver’ metal dental fillings helped ‘seal’ the fillings in the tooth. They also incorrectly claimed that these very same filings are ‘stable’, and do not release mercury. When they realized that the two claims, corrosion and stability, contradicted each other, they stopped saying that mercury containing silver amalgam fillings corrode, even though they do all the time. The corrosion process releases dissolved metal into our body. If the metal is toxic, like mercury in dental fillings, or the nickel in metal braces or metal based dental crowns, even if you don’t taste the metals, you are still being slowly poisoned by them.
So why doesn’t everybody with metal touching their teeth get a metal or metallic taste in their mouth?
This is a very good question and one which is difficult to answer. Some people have a very pronounced and unpleasant metallic taste in their mouths. Yet, the majority of people who have metal filling or crowns in their mouths do not taste any metal.
One explanation is that it may be possible for the corrosion caused by the electrical currents to make the surface of a dental metal more resistant to further corrosion, by the formation of relatively stable chemical oxides. There is no scientific evidence that this happens to the surface of silver-mercury fillings. Even when there is no taste detected, the fillings generate electrical currents, which mean they are corroding and releasing metals into the saliva.
Traditional dentists may tell you that the metallic taste is caused by a rare allergic reaction to the metal. But this has never been scientifically documented. Do genetic differences play a role? No one really knows. Although our tongue is extremely taste sensitive, is there sufficient variation in taste sensitivity to account for a metallic taste by only some people? Perhaps, but none of these possible causes seem to provide an adequate answer.
So why do only a relatively few people taste metal after metal filings, or implants, or braces, or crowns with metal are inserted in their mouths? The real answer may reside in each person’s individual biological sensitivity to foreign substances and environmental toxins. Common sense would dictate that people whose life style has included exposure to all sorts of toxins on a daily basis would have a compromised immune system. Toxic substances are everywhere. Most people are aware of the synthetic food additives, colors and chemical preservatives found in processed foods, the hormones and antibiotics found in meats, the pesticides in non organic fruits and vegetables, plus all the similar toxic substances found in the air we breathe and the water we drink. Since a compromised, poorly functioning immune system is unable to adequately cope with environmental stresses, the result may be greater taste sensitivity to metals than most other people experience.
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What can you do to stop a metallic taste in our mouth?
As we mentioned above, please check with your physician about any medicines you may be taking or medical problems you may be experiencing. The next step would be to consult with your dentist about the advisability of removing all the metals in your mouth, which may involve considerable cost and stress. Contacting a biological dentist who is experienced with the safe removal of mercury fillings is critical to success. The following two websites can be of great help in this respect: www.iaomt.org, for the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT), and www.amalgam.org for DAMS International (DAMS).