Taste Loss: Could It Be a Dental Problem?
Most adults know that poor oral hygiene results in cavities and gum disease, but did you know that it can also cause taste loss? From salty to sweet, spicy to savory – failing to take proper care of your mouth can impede your ability to taste and enjoy just about any type of food set before you. Dentists call this condition "dysguesia", and if you haven't heard about it, here's what you should be aware of to prevent and/or treat this unpleasant taste disorder.
Symptoms And Causes
While other disorders can dull taste ("hypoguesia"), or leave you without the ability to taste anything at all ("aguesia"), dysguesia is typically characterized by a particularly foul, metallic or rancid sensation in the mouth. In many cases, patients who suffer from this form of taste loss may also experience Burning Mouth Syndrome, a painful oral disorder typically characterized by numbness, burning or tingling along the inner lining and roof of the mouth.
Dyguesia can be caused by a number of issues, such as smoking, respiratory infection, radiation treatment, medication or nerve damage due to injury or surgery, but sometimes, taste buds can be impacted by avoidable dental problems such as:
- Gum disease, whether it be gingivitis or a more severe case of periodontitis
- Thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth due to excess growth of the fungus Candida
- A tooth abscess, or infection of the root of the tooth because of severe decay
- Xerostomia, or dry mouth, due to lack of saliva flow/production
- Dentures that are not properly cleaned or cover part of the mouth's upper palate
In rare cases, individuals can be born with dysguesia, or, they may acquire it during various life stages such as pregnancy or menopause.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Determining the underlying cause of taste loss can be tricky, both because taste is so closely associated to smell, and because there are many potential medical or dental reasons for the problem. Reporting the issue to your physician is typically the first step individuals will take, but usually, diagnosis will require seeing an otolaryngologist, or ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor.
Using various chemical tests, the ENT doctor can help rule out if a smell disorder is actually the culprit, and whether it is indeed taste loss that you are experiencing. He or she can also identify the severity and root cause based on your medical and dental history.
Once the root cause is known, and if it is treatable, overcoming dysguesia is as simple as correcting that root cause. If, for example, poor oral health is to blame, dental procedures, prescribed medication, and/or hygiene modifications can easily remedy the situation and help you reclaim your sense of taste.
Delayed Action Can Cause Dental Problems
If you notice a change in taste, seek your doctor or dentist for prompt attention to the matter. More health problems may result if an individual turns to excess sugar and salt to compensate for the lack of taste, or if other poor food choices are made because of the inability to taste food correctly. Even if the root cause is not a dental issue, seeing your dentist more frequently while dealing with dysguesia or other taste disorders can help protect your oral health from unnecessary complications.