What if You Couldn’t Taste?
We consume foods and drinks to help keep our bodies functioning properly, however, going out for a meal or drink often means much more to us. Meals are a way for us to connect with our families after a long day, coffee runs help us wake up in the morning, and a dessert date is a fun way to get to know someone a little better. The reason we can do all of these things is because we’re able to taste and enjoy what we’re consuming — and we can do that because of our taste buds.
The Taste Buds
There are five basic tastes according to Colgate: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory. We’re able to taste these while we eat and drink due to the sensory cells in our mouth and throat. These sensory cells, also known as gustatory cells, start working when tiny molecules are released when you take a sip of a drink or a bite of food. These cells are grouped together with the taste buds found on the tongue and at the roof of the mouth.
We are able to taste — and smell — because of these cells. While tasting and smelling are two different senses, they are intimately entwined, says brainfacts.org. Just think about it: why does the smell of a pizza in the oven or coffee in the morning make your mouth water? The chemicals in food are detected by our taste buds, and when stimulated, the cells send a message to the brain which makes us aware of what we’re tasting. Smell works in a similar way. Specialized cells within the nose pick up odors that stimulate receptor proteins on the sensory cells. In the end, taste and smell come together to allow us to really taste and savor what we’re consuming.
Taste Bud Changes
As people age, it’s normal to lose a bit of their ability to taste and smell certain things. Along with age, some people might not be able to use these senses due to underlying conditions like allergies, medication side effects, other dental issues, and more.
Changes in the taste buds mean that the way we perceive certain tastes can also change her time. A food you once loved can suddenly taste like nothing, or something you once hated you might love now!
Taste buds can change for a short period of time, but sometimes taste bud changes are long-term depending on the cause. Healthline explains common reasons that your taste buds can become impaired:
- Viral or bacterial infections. Upper respiratory infections can cause your nose to run or become stuffy. These problems can reduce your sense of smell and taste, which could be why loss of taste and smell is a symptom of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
- Medical conditions. Disorders like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s can change a person’s perception of taste. Additionally, some diseases, like cancer, can do the same (especially during treatment).
- Nutrient deficiencies. Malnutrition can cause deficiency in vitamins and minerals that we need to be able to use our senses properly.
- Nerve damage. When a person has nerve damage along the pathway from the mouth to the brain, they can cause a change in taste buds.
- Medications. Some medicine can change your taste buds as a side effect. Most commonly, high blood pressure medication is to blame.
- Aging. Like we mentioned above, losing some perception of taste and smell is common as we age.
- Smoking. Those who smoke are more likely to experience a change in taste, along with other side effects, due to the carcinogens and alkaloids found in the cigarettes.
Healing Taste Buds
Most of the causes, like illness or taking a medication, means that your change in taste is probably short-term. In most cases, normal taste and smell will return once you’re better or quit taking the medication. If the taste buds were damaged due to nerve damage, it depends on the severity whether or not you’ll regain your ability to taste normally again.
Make an Appointment with Dr. Ania
If you have noticed your sense of taste dwindling, come see Dr. Ania to learn about your options. We know that enjoying food and drink is an experience and that you want to continue to enjoy your favorite things for years to come. Make an appointment now or call (303)-872-9940.
Please note: if you have sudden loss of taste and smell and have been exposed to COVID-19, please find your local testing center and hold off on coming to the dentist.