There are many reasons someone may experience a salty taste in their mouth, including eating salty food, a common cold, or damaged gums. However, in some cases everything tasting salty can be a sign of an underlying health condition.

This article will look at some common reasons for a salty taste in the mouth, how people can help prevent or treat the problem at home, and when a person may wish to speak with a doctor.

A person holding up a bottle of water to remove the salty taste from their mouth.Share on Pinterest
Mariia Siurtukova/EyeEm/Getty Images

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation, this happens when excess mucus in the nasal passage drips down the back of the nose and into the throat. Sometimes, the mucus may taste salty.

Allergies, sinus infection, and the common cold can all cause postnasal drip.

Symptoms include:

  • a feeling of mucus draining into the throat
  • needing to swallow a lot
  • needing to clear the throat a lot
  • rasping or gurgling when talking
  • a sore throat
  • feeling as though there is a lump in the throat

Treatment will depend on the cause. For example, treatment may include antibiotics if the cause is a bacterial infection, or antihistamines to treat allergies.

A person can also drink more fluids, avoid caffeine, and use saline nasal spray to help thin the mucus.

Often, having a dry mouth is a sign of dehydration. However, having a dry mouth is sometimes a medical condition. Doctors call this xerostomia.

Someone with xerostomia may feel as though they have cotton balls in their mouth. They may also have dry or sticky saliva that tastes strange, bitter, or salty.

Common causes of xerostomia include medication side effects and smoking tobacco.

Xerostomia is also a symptom of various health conditions, including:

Dehydration can lead to an odd taste and other symptoms, such as dry mouth. When a person is dehydrated, there is an imbalance in the levels of salt and water in their body. This makes the saliva rich in salty minerals.

Symptoms of dehydration that can occur with an odd taste include:

Diarrhea or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to dehydration. People who exercise vigorously without drinking enough water may also become dehydrated.

If the saltiness also tastes similar to rust or metal, there may be blood in the mouth.

Sharp foods, such as chips or hard candies, can cut the inside of the mouth. Flossing or brushing the teeth too vigorously can also injure the gums.

Bleeding after brushing or flossing can be an early symptom of gingivitis, which is an inflammatory condition of the gums.

Some infections can cause bleeding in the mouth, leading to a salty or iron-like taste.

Gingivitis can sometimes lead to periodontitis, which is a severe type of gum inflammation that typically involves infection.

Periodontitis may also cause:

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

Another infection that may lead to oral bleeding is oral thrush.

This is a yeast infection that causes:

  • white plaques in the mouth
  • sensitivity or burning in the mouth
  • difficulty tasting

If a person wipes the white plaques off, the area can bleed slightly, leading to a salty or iron-like taste in the mouth.

GERD is an upper gastrointestinal condition. The tube connecting the mouth to the stomach, called the esophagus, has two one-way valves, known as a sphincter, with one at the top and the other at the bottom.

In GERD, the lower valve (between the esophagus and stomach) is weaker, allowing stomach acid to creep up into the esophagus. This leads to a burning sensation in the chest, called heartburn.

Heartburn can lead to a sour taste in the mouth.

Research from 2017 found that GERD altered people’s ability to taste salt. Some noticed that salt tasted stronger or weaker than it typically did.

Other causes can include the following.

  • Nutritional deficiencies: Sometimes, lack of nutrients, such as a zinc disorder, can lead to taste disorders.
  • Medical conditions: Some conditions that affect the brain or nerves can also affect the tongue. This may lead to an odd or salty taste. Examples include:
  • Hormonal imbalances: Hormonal imbalances, such as those experienced during menopause, can alter the way people taste, according to 2013 research.
  • Side effects of medication: A salty taste in the mouth can be a side effect of medication. Some cancer treatments, for example, can affect the taste buds, leading to a salty taste.

The correct treatment for a salty taste in the mouth will depend on the cause.

Home remedies

Home remedies a person may wish to try include:

  • drinking water
  • 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

Someone with a salty taste in their mouth should speak with a healthcare professional if:

  • the taste does not go away
  • they suspect they may have an infection
  • they suspect an underlying health condition

If the taste is a side effect of medication, it may go away once the person stops taking the drug. However, people should always speak with a doctor before stopping any prescribed medication.

There are many reasons someone may get a salty taste in their mouth. For example, the person may have eaten salty food or have a cold.

Sometimes, a salty taste in the mouth can be a sign of an underlying health condition or a medication side effect. People should speak with a doctor if the taste does not go away or they suspect an underlying infection or condition.