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Sweet Taste in Mouth: What Does It Mean?

Updated on August 28, 2016
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Trained in dentistry, Sree is currently pursuing lab sciences. She loves researching and sharing information on various health topics.

So, you are experiencing this sweet taste in your mouth. You do not intend to make a big fuzz about it, since it is probably nothing. A common reaction is to try brushing it off. However, this sweet taste in mouth has lingered for more than a day.

You attempt to eliminate the sweetness by drinking plenty of water, but to no avail. Whether you find it annoying or you are curious of its cause, a lingering sweet taste in mouth should not be ignored – especially if you have not consumed any sweets.

Rather than scratch your head regarding the cause, why don't you approach a specialist? Let him evaluate your case and provide you professional advice. Either that or you could determine the possible meaning on your own. It does not warrant immediate worrying, but it is best to have the concern checked out.

The Sweet Taste in Mouth: An Explanation
Apart from bitter, pungent, salty, sour, and astringent, one of the six common recognizable tastes is sweet. Usually, it is universally considered as a relaxing and pleasurable experience.

Usually, before, during, and shortly after eating and drinking sweet substances, a sweet taste in mouth lingers. Among the list of common sweets are bananas, strawberries, ice cream, chocolates, candies, milk, juice, fruity soda, and fruit juices.

Contrary to common understanding, taste is actually not experienced on particular portions of your tongue; rather, it is experienced on every portion. You can notice that the sensations can vary in different portions of the tongue, but these differences are rather small.

The tongue contains taste buds – cluster of up to 100 cells. These taste buds are tiny structures on the tongue’s upper surface. They gather information about the taste of foods and drinks. It will then relay the information to the brain.

Having a sweet taste in your mouth might not be a problem after treating yourself to sweets. Remember, the sweet taste may linger for about an hour or two. Try not to react immediately.

However, if the sweetness is present despite not eating or drinking sweet substances, it is cue to start digging deeper into the concern. To respond to sweetness without an apparent trigger is an abnormal response.

The Sweet Taste in Mouth: What Does It Mean?
The Sweet Taste in Mouth: What Does It Mean? | Source

Theories on Sweetness

Since the development of organic chemistry in the 1900s, different theories regarding sweetness have been introduced. In these theories, an individual’s responsiveness to sweetness is elaborated.

One theory is called the B-X Theory. Lemont Kier proposed it in 1972. It states that sweetness has a correlation with hydrophobicity. Hydrophobicity, as the physical property of molecules to repel water, supports the argument regarding the unique characteristics of a sweet compound.

According to the B-X Theory, a sweetness response can be predicted and analyzed. It follows that it has a binding site (labeled as X). When this binding site interacts with a hydrophobic site, dispersion forces can be identified. Thus, the sweetness response can be understood via dispersion forces.

In addition, according to another theory, sweetness can be understood by analyzing the relationship between a sweet substance and a sweetness receptor. This theoretical model involves eight interaction sites. It is called Multipoint Attachment Theory and was developed by Claude Nofre and Jean Tintil.

The Anatomy of a Sweet Substance
The sweet taste in your mouth is composed of elements that refine the body’s function. Sweet substances support the body by providing energy and playing a role in faster metabolism.

Many studies suggest that sweet substances are usually preferred due to human nature. The body usually favors sweet tastes simply because it has no reason to reject the particular tastes. They insist that sweet substances taste good since they do not bring harm – of course, granted that they are consumed in moderation.

However, the aforementioned studies are arguable. According to some researches, there is apparent evidence that not everything that tastes does the body good. Conversely, many foods that taste salty, bitter, sour, pungent, and astringent come with nutritional benefits.

For instance, kale tastes bitter. Not every person enjoys the vegetable. Not every person also likes the idea of including it in meals. However, since it is one of the healthiest vegetables, many decide to make it a part of their diet.

Samples of sweet substances:

  • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are divided into two categories in food science: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.
    By a few, carbohydrates are associated with anything sweet (i.e. any energy-providing substance). This is a mistake. Despite sugar being a component, not all carbohydrates taste sweet. An example is bread. Bread has carbohydrates yet it is not sweet.
  • Chemical compounds: Chemical compounds are sweet to some degree. Although each of their sweetness level may differ, they are all sweet. The degree of their sweetness is rated based on sweetness perception.
    Examples of these compounds are aldehyde, ketone, glucose, fructose, lactose, aspartame, and maltose. Some are sweeter than the others are.
  • Inorganic compounds: Examples of inorganic compounds are lead acetate and beryllium chloride. They act as sweeteners are usually made into food additives. Not only do they make foods and drinks taste good, they enhance the overall flavor.
    In particular cases, inorganic compounds are made for a special dietary purpose: to serve as flavor-enhancers. Some of these compounds contain no calories since due to the body’s inability to metabolize them. They pass through the digestive system without the need to be absorbed.
  • Plant-based sweeteners: Natural sweet substances that come with health benefits are usually plant-based sweeteners. They improve the sweetness of foods and drinks without influencing textural properties.
    They are very potent as regulators of blood glucose levels. In fact, it has been discovered that replacing nearly half of the content of foods and drinks with plant-based can significantly improve blood sugar control.
  • Sweet proteins: Sweet proteins are substances that are easily recognizable by food scientists. Compared to other sweet substances, they are extremely sweet. According to reports, they reach up to 2000 times sweeter than many popular sweeteners.
    Examples of sweet proteins are monellin, brazzein, and thaumatin. Usually, they are known for their clean sweet taste and lingering aftertaste.

Understanding Sweetness Modifiers

It was discovered that sweetness could be modified. This is in relation to a person’s responsiveness to sweet taste.

Moreover, the discovery reveals that substances could be used to modify the perception of a particular taste. These substances are called sweetness modifiers. For instance, if the sweet taste in your mouth is too unpleasant, you can turn it into a more pleasant one – or one according to your preference.

One of these sweetness modifiers is lactisole. You can find it as a common ingredient in selected fruit preserves and jellies. It is a commercial compound. It brings out particular sweet tastes by suppressing stronger flavors.

Alongside, the plant proteins named curculin and miraculin can be regarded as sweetness modifiers. They are natural modifiers that cause the sour taste to be perceived as sweet. Once the tongue touches either of these proteins, sour foods and drinks taste as if loads of sugar were sprinkled on them. The effect will last for about an hour.

In contrast to these discoveries, it was found that numerous clinical researchers are doubtful with regard to the existence of sweetness modifiers.

The opposing claim is partly due to the doubts regarding the existence of sweetness receptors. It argues that without receptors, the role of modifiers is non-existent, too.

In 2001, an experiment that involves laboratory mice was conclusive. It concluded that particular foods and drinks are preferable. With or without receptors, some foods and drinks are preferred over others. The preference may have something to do with sweetness.

Moreover, according to other studies, maybe there are receptors. However, receptors for each taste are unique. For instance, the role of a saltiness receptor is specifically designed as a pathway for saltiness. It follows that for a salty taste, the saltiness receptor is designed to perceive the particular taste.

Thus, the sweetness receptor is specifically designed as a pathway for sweetness. The sweetness in your mouth can only be modified if the sweetness receptor is modified.

Cognition of Sweetness
According to numerous studies (including one featured in a published book by John R. Morrs, et al), sweetness is psychological. The color of recently consumed foods and drinks can also be the cause of the sweet taste in your mouth. As the conclusion of the aforementioned studies state, color has an effect on sweetness perception.

Particularly, if you add a red coloring to them, the perceived sweetness of foods and drinks increases. If you add light colors (e.g. blue and yellow), foods and drink can increase in sweetness, too - at a relatively lower level.

As explained by the said studies, the effect of colors on sweetness is due to cognitive expectations. Since some red odors smell sweet (e.g. red cologne and the Chocolate Cosmos flowers), the mind gets confused whether the sweetness was smelled or tasted.

Theories on Sweetness, The Anatomy of a Sweet Substance and Understanding Sweetness Modifiers
Theories on Sweetness, The Anatomy of a Sweet Substance and Understanding Sweetness Modifiers | Source

The Role of Food Temperature

As the details of numerous studies (including one done by researchers at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium) suggest, food temperature plays a role in sweetness perception. According to the notes, the TRMP 5 chemical is a component of any sweet substance. This TRMP 5 chemical is more intense given a particular temperature.

In addition, the TRMP 5 reacts relatively stronger upon exposure to warm temperature. As it reacts, the chemical sends a signal to the brain to increase the taste.

To give a better picture, use ice cream as an example. Consider preparing two cups of the same ice cream. Refrigerate the ice cream in cup # 1, and wait about two minutes before eating the ice cream in cup # 2.

As you eat the ice cream in cup # 2, be observant of the sweet taste. After finishing the contents of cup # 2, do the same with the ice cream in cup # 1. Then, compare.

Like many researchers, you might conclude that the ice cream in cup # 2 is sweeter. Thus, warm ice cream is the sweeter one.

However, it was discovered that not all foods and drinks are affected by food temperature. For example, two biscuits taste similarly even if one is refrigerated, and the other is not.

Food scientists acknowledge the aforementioned discovery. Many of them admit that conducting additional studies and closer examination is best to explain the relationship between sweetness perception and food temperature.

For starters, there is a newly erected molecular biology center in Philadelphia. It aims to carry on with the studies done on sweetness perception, as well as taste.

Common Self-Diagnosis Techniques
If the sweet taste in mouth makes you worry, an option is to perform a simple self-diagnosis. Some people may advise you to brush off the concern, but to be sure that there is no threat to your health, conducting a self-examination procedure can provide answers. After all, you are the one who can perceive the taste - not others.

A self-diagnosis is an alternative to approaching a medical professional. It can help you inspect the taste more closely, and it can give you a clue of a possible problem. Most importantly, it can help you rule out some health concerns.

A tip is to take notes. Document the self-diagnosis procedure. As you progress, write down observations. This way, you will not be missing any essential detail. Then, review the notes later on.

Steps:

  1. Describe the sweet taste in your mouth. Are you certain that the taste is sweet? Could it be a metallic taste? Could it be minty? Be detailed - as much as possible.
  2. Drink plenty of water for observation; a glass will suffice. After a few minutes, observe any changes to the taste.
  3. Determine whether the sweet taste in your mouth is unusual. Ask questions such as:
    * Have I eaten something beforehand? What food (or anything edible) resembles this taste?
    * Have I perceived this taste before? Is it a familiar taste?
  4. Determine how often you perceive the sweet taste in mouth. Does the sweetness bother you on particular days?
  5. Are there any unusual signs that accompany the sweet taste in your mouth? According to a few reports, some have experienced cold sensations, canker sores, and skin rashes when experiencing sweetness.

Once you get to the underlying cause of the sweet taste, it is time to decide on the next move. You can choose to approach a medical specialist. If you presume that there is a problem, get medical attention. If the self-diagnosis concludes otherwise, you can let the taste subside.

Warning!

If you experience a persistent sweet taste at least thrice, consider a warning. Try not to delay the need to seek medical attention. If a self-diagnosis concludes that the sweet taste is caused by unnatural factors, be ready to set an appointment with a medical specialist.

Cognition of Sweetness, Common Causes of Sweetness and The Role of Food Temperature
Cognition of Sweetness, Common Causes of Sweetness and The Role of Food Temperature | Source

Common Causes of Sweetness

According to many health specialists, the first instance of experiencing a sweet taste in mouth is not an alarming concern. In fact, it is sometimes dismissed as an aftermath of eating or drinking a sweet substance.

In many cases, it is only during the third experience that the sweet taste in the mouth becomes a concern. If he experiences the same sweet taste, a person may begin noticing. He would then become observant from that point on.

Common causes of sweet taste in mouth:

  • The sweet taste of food and drinks
  • Lingering in a room with warm temperature
  • An improper dental hygiene approach; if you were in a hurry when brushing your teeth, food may have gotten stuck between your teeth

The Possibilities
A sweet taste in mouth is indicative of your body’s inability to regulate glucose level. Because your body lost its ability to normalize blood sugar, you can experience overly sweet tastes or flavorless foods and drinks.

Abnormal glucose level is a sign that you have a metabolic disorder. Glucose levels vary throughout the day. The normal blood sugar level is about 100 mg per dL. Before a meal, blood sugar level should be around 70-99 mg per dL. After a meal, the level could rise; but to be considered normal, it should reach a level of no more than 140 mg per dL.

Moreover, a high blood sugar level means you are hyperglycemic. High blood sugar level is a sign of diabetes.

Should it be accompanied by other diabetes symptoms, there is a high chance that the sweet taste may lean towards the onset of the disease. The list of common diabetes symptoms includes frequent urination, weight loss, excessive thirst, non-justifiable exhaustion, inconsistencies in appetite, and vision problems.

Diabetes, however, is only one of the possibilities. A sweet taste in mouth is also indicative of other health hazards.

Different Possibilities:

  • Burning Mouth Syndrome / Oral Sensory Neuropathy: The condition, usually affecting pre- and post- menstrual women, is due to the faulty processes of nerves in your brain. These processes are supposed to transmit information regarding the sensations in your mouth.
    Usually, the sweet taste in mouth is not the only noticeable taste. Due to affected nerves that relay information about tastes, you may also taste bitter, metallic, salty, and even other unfamiliar flavors.
  • Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, and other forms of dementia
    A lingering sweet taste is a sign of the start of an irreversible chronic mental illness. Taste buds are quite defective during the early stage. This is due to the eventual changes in brain functions.
  • Over-The-Counter supplements, prescription medications, and vitamins:
    Oral medicines can cause a sweet taste. Since the mouth absorbed flavor of the meds exits in the saliva, a sweet taste can be an aftermath.
    In most cases, the unusual sweetness in your mouth will subside after a day or two. After the body absorbs the medicines, the taste buds’ function will be restored.
  • Pseudomonas infections: These infections can be responsible for the sweetness inside your mouth. They compromise your sense of taste. If left untreated, they could slowly lead to infection to other sensory organs and internal organs.
    This type of infections is caused by a bacterium from the Pseudomonas genus. Since the bacterium can be due to environmental factors (e.g. plants, soil, and water), those with a weak immune system are prone to the infections.
  • Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease:
    The sweet taste in mouth can be caused by a digestive disorder, GERD or Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease.
    GERD is a condition, which causes a reflux inside your mouth. It can result to confusion in food processing (i.e. it can result to smelling and tasting food).
  • Hyposmia, anosmia, and other olfactory disorders: The sweet taste can be due to an olfactory disorder. An olfactory disorder means a problem with your ability to smell. With a compromised sense of smell, smells and taste can be confused. This could be due to a blockage in sensory neurons, head trauma, or an underlying disease.
    To give you an idea, think about the time you had a cold. During then, you might have difficulty with your sense of taste. During then, you might not taste any food at all - regardless of the flavor.

Approaching Medical Specialists
Regarding the sweet taste in mouth, you can consult a primary care physician. With a primary care physician’s global approach, you will be given a comprehensive assessment of the problem. This way, you can identify the causes, possibilities, and treatment options.

Moreover, a primary care physician could refer your case to another doctor. If he concludes that the problem is out of his hands, another specialist could inspect more closely and provide a better course of treatment.

Options of Medical Specialists to Approach:

Option
Description
Otolaryngologist
An otolaryngologist, or an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist, treats diseases and disorders that concern the ear, nose, and throat. Alongside, he treats related structures in the head and neck.
 
Laryngology, as one of an otolaryngologist's areas of expertise, deals with the diagnosis and management of illnesses in the larynx. Since the sweet taste in your mouth could be due to a problem in your throat, he can provide assessment and treatment.
Neurologist
Since impairments in the nervous system might be the cause of the sweet taste in your mouth, your primary care physician may recommend an appointment with a neurologist.
 
Consulting a neurologist can be costly. Usually, to detect the cause of sweetness, he will examine your brain closely. He may have to let you undergo a CT (or Cranial Tomography) scan or an MRI (or Magnetic Resonance Imaging).

Should You Worry?

In summation, recognizing a sweet taste in mouth does not necessitate immediate panic. Sure, there may be a number of alarming possibilities, but these are mere possibilities.

Besides, there is a chance that the sweet taste in your mouth could subside given time. Granted you consult a specialist afterwards, you can determine a recommended course of action. Let the medical professional give evaluation, as well as assistance.

Based on the discussion above, what do you think is the reason behind sweet taste in your mouth? Do you think it is something troublesome? On the other hand, do you think the sweet taste is more likely to subside?

Are you feeling sweet taste in mouth?

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