People who have had their wisdom teeth removed are said to have an improved sense of taste in the long run.
Oral hygiene is important to the sense of taste. To avoid altering the sense of taste, it is best not to wash your tongue. But in a new study published June 23 in the journal Chemical Senses, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine went further, suggesting that removing wisdom teeth would improve the sense of taste in the long run.
Women fared better than men in the tasting tests
This study is the first to look at the long-term effects of wisdom teeth removal. “Previous studies have found only adverse effects on taste after extraction, and it is generally believed that these effects dissipate over time,” said Richard L. Doty, lead author of the study. This new study shows us that taste function can indeed improve slightly from the time patients undergo surgery up to 20 years later. This is a surprising but intriguing finding that deserves further research to better understand why this function improves and what this might mean clinically.”
For the study, the researchers evaluated data from 1,255 patients. Of these, 891 participants had their wisdom teeth extracted and 364 did not. They then performed several tests to assess the subjects’ taste functions. They tested five different concentrations: Sucrose, sodium chloride, citric acid, and caffeine. Each solution was taken by mouth, then spit out, and the participants had to indicate whether the solution tasted sweet, salty, sour, or bitter.
Taste functions improved by between 3% and 10%.
The results showed that the group without wisdom teeth performed better than the control group in all four tastes. Another interesting observation was that women consistently performed better than men. The researchers estimate that people who have had their wisdom teeth removed experience an average improvement in taste function of 3-10%. “The study strongly suggests that third molar extraction has a long-term, albeit subtle, positive effect on tongue taste pathway function in some people,” said Dan Kim, co-author of the study.
According to the authors, two explanations could account for these findings. The first is related to the damage caused by the extraction to the nerves that innervate the taste buds at the front of the mouth, which may trigger inhibition of these nerves that supply the taste buds at the back of the mouth, increasing the sensitivity of the entire mouth.
The second explanation could be that the oral surgery, which involves the extraction of wisdom teeth, increases the hypersensitivity of the injured peripheral nerves . Thus, repeated rubbing, that may occur during chewing, gradually increases neural responses in irritated tissues, which may lead to long-term progressive tactile hypersensitivity and increased taste perception.
“Further studies are needed to determine the mechanism(s) behind the taste-enhancing function induced by extraction,” concluded Richard Doty. “The effects are subtle, but may provide insight into how long-term improvement in neuronal function can be achieved by altering the environment in which the nerves extend.