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Metallic taste in my mouth

The back of my tongue appears to be a yellowy colour, which sometimes spreads further down or sometimes is barely visable. I've visted the dentist numerous occasions and have been told it's just "one of those things" but I constantly have a metallic taste in my mouth, and now feel like I've got something "stuck" in my throat when I swallow. I brush twice a day, use mouthwash and even use a tongue scraper but it's not budging. Slightly concerned it's an infection of some kind?

30 August 2019

This answer was last reviewed in August 2019 by Christa Boughton, a dental nurse in our Customer Service team.

Yellow tongue can indeed be ‘one of those things’, that can be caused by numerous factors. The fact your dentist is not concerned is a sign that there is nothing to worry about. Do not be deterred from your brushing habits - brushing twice daily is strongly recommended and use of mouthwash may help, as well as scraping your tongue to clear any build up of bacteria.

Yellow tongue usually occurs as a result of a harmless buildup of dead skin cells on the tiny projections (papillae) on the surface of your tongue. Most commonly this occurs when your papillae become enlarged and bacteria in your mouth produce colored pigments.

Also, the longer-than-normal papillae can easily trap cells that have shed, which become stained by tobacco, food or other substances. Mouth breathing or dry mouth may also be linked to yellow tongue. Rinsing your mouth following eating, drinking and smoking may also help discoloration.

Medical treatment for yellow tongue usually isn't necessary. If tongue discoloration bothers you, try gently brushing your tongue once a day. Rinse your mouth with water afterwards to wash away any bacteria removed.

Quitting smoking and increasing fibre in your diet also may help by decreasing the bacteria in your mouth that cause yellow tongue and reducing the buildup of dead skin cells.

If you're concerned about persistent discoloration of your tongue, or if your skin or the whites of your eyes also appear yellow, this may suggest jaundice and seeing your doctor is advised for further investigation.

A metallic taste in your mouth can be caused by a number of things, including:

  • Gum disease (if the gums bleed following cleaning)
  • Problems with the airways (such as a cold, sinus or other respiratory tract infection)
  • Treatment side affects (antibiotics, antifungal medicine, antihistamines, chemotherapy, diuretics, nicotine patches). If you feel that medication may be causing the metallic taste, you can check the patient information leaflet.

With regards to the sensation that something is in the back of your throat whilst swallowing, many people experience this feeling right behind their tongue or tonsils. The feeling may vary from mild to severe and occur on and off, while others may persistently experience these symptoms.

Any area in the throat may be affected. If you experience occasional difficulties swallowing, it may not be a concern. It may be down to a dry mouth. However, persistent difficulties may require medical attention. There are two main causes for difficulty swallowing:

1. Something is blocking your throat or esophagus

This could be due to food or an object, tonsillitis, gastric reflux, enlarged thyroid gland or in extreme cases, cancer.

2. The muscles and nerves in the throat and esophagus are not working as they should

This may be due to a stroke, spinal injury, inflammatory conditions or spasms.

If the sesation persists it may be worth seeing your GP.

Do not be deterred with your oral hygiene and carry on with twice daily brushing, use of mouthwash and tongue scraper. Your dentist would inform you if there was any concern but for peace of mind and a second opinion, you can always see your GP.

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