Could removing your wisdom teeth enhance your sense of taste? This is a topic that has been circulating the internet recently. It turns out, a new study found that patients who had their wisdom teeth extracted had improved tasting abilities decades after having the surgery.
How can this improve your taste?
According to senior author Richard L. Doty, PhD, director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania, and coauthor Dane Kim, a third-year student in the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, there are two possibilities that could explain the enhancement.
-First, extraction damage to the nerves that innervate the taste buds on the front of the mouth can release inhibition on nerves that supply the taste buds at the rear of the mouth, increasing whole-mouth sensitivity.
-Second, hypersensitivity after peripheral nerve injury from a surgery like an extraction has been well documented in other contexts. There is evidence, for example, from animal studies that repetitive light touch, which might occur during chewing, gradually accentuates neural responses from irritated tissue that can lead to progressive long-term tactile hypersensitivity. Whether this occurs for taste, however, is not known.
“This new study shows us that taste function can actually slightly improve between the time patients have surgery and up to 20 years later,” Doty said in a Penn Medicine news release. “It’s a surprising but fascinating finding that deserves further investigation to better understand why it’s enhanced and what it may mean clinically.”
For the study, the investigators analyzed data from 1,255 people who were evaluated at the smell and taste center over 20 years. Of those, 891 had undergone wisdom tooth extraction and 364 had not.
The participants were tested on their ability to detect sweet, salty, sour or bitter tastes. For all four tastes, the wisdom tooth extraction group outperformed the control group, according to the study published recently in the journal Chemical Senses.
Further studies are needed to determine what could be behind the extraction-related improvement in taste function. Having wisdom teeth removed is a fairly common and successful surgery. It’s important to talk to your dentist or oral surgeon beforehand to help ensure everything goes smoothly. Contact us at Alfano Oral Surgery to schedule an appointment today!