Sweetness is one of at least five basic tastes detected by the tongue’s taste buds. Others include sourness, saltiness, bitterness, and a balanced flavor called umami.
Normally you’ll only taste sweetness after eating something that contains sugar. This could be something more natural, like honey or fruit, or something processed, like ice cream.
Some medical conditions can cause a person to experience a sweet taste in their mouth even if they haven’t eaten something sweet. Continue reading to learn more.
Doctors are still learning more about the causes of this unusual symptom. However, some causes appear to include:
- Metabolic problems, such as diabetes, ketosis, or a thyroid disorder. Metabolic disorders can affect the body’s ability to taste, causing a background sweet taste in the mouth and large preference for very sweet-tasting foods.
- Neurological problems, such as stroke, seizure disorder, or epilepsy. A sweet taste in the mouth can be an early symptom of neurological issues.
- Viruses that attack the body’s ability to smell. Disruptions in the body’s olfactory system — the system that allows the body to smell — can result in a sweet taste in the mouth.
- Infection in the sinuses, nose, and throat. Certain bacteria, especially pseudomonas, can cause a sweet taste in the mouth.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Stomach acid backs up into the throat and mouth, causing a sweet taste.
- Small cell carcinoma in the lung. A sweet taste is an early symptom of this condition.
- Pregnancy. Many women experience a strange taste in their mouth in the early stages of pregnancy. Some women might describe it as sweet or metallic.
These conditions cause a sweet taste in the mouth by affecting the body’s sensory, or nervous, system. This is a complex system of sensors affected by hormones in the body. These conditions affect the functions of these hormones, causing a sweet taste in the mouth.
If you have a sweet taste in your mouth on an infrequent basis, it’s probably nothing to worry about and will go away on its own. But if you’re experiencing this symptom on a regular or increasing basis, you should see a doctor.
You may choose to see your primary care physician, or you can choose to see a specialist. Many causes of a sweet taste in the mouth appear to be associated with the olfactory and respiratory systems. Other causes are associated with the body’s hormones (endocrine system) and also neurological problems. So, you may choose to see one or more of the following specialists:
When you see your doctor, they will perform a physical examination and ask about your medical history. They might also ask about your family’s medical history, which can affect your likelihood of developing certain conditions that can cause a sweet taste in the mouth.
At your visit, your doctor will try to determine the underlying condition causing a sweet taste in your mouth by running various diagnostic tests. These might include:
- blood tests to check hormone and blood sugar levels
- blood tests to check for bacterial and viral infections
- brain scans to check neurological activity and look for nerve damage
- CT or MRI scans to check the lungs for signs of cancer
If the sweet taste in your mouth occurs infrequently, chances are it will go away on its own. Staying healthy may help prevent this problem in the future. That involves eating a diet rich in fresh foods, including fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Try not to eat a lot of sugars. These increase your risks of diseases, especially diabetes, which is associated with a sweet taste in the mouth.
However, if the sweet taste in your mouth is caused by an underlying medical condition, sticking to your treatment plan can help prevent the symptom from coming back. Listen to your doctor’s treatment instructions carefully. If the problem doesn’t go away or comes back even if you’re following your doctor’s instructions, be sure to contact your doctor right away.