It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally I have a patient who complains of a change or loss of their ability to taste food. I may see cases like this a few times a year and it can be very disconcerting if it happens to you!
Tasteis a very complicated issue and there is not much research explaining the complexity of the taste system,and few definitive treatments exist. Patients often confuse taste changes with flavor changes. There are 5 basic tastes:
- Bitter, and
- Umami (often described as a savory or meaty flavor)
Flavor is a combination of taste, aroma and the sensation of food in one’s mouth. Loss of taste results in a person’s lack of response to one of these five tastes, while loss of the perception of flavor is a result of damage to specific nerves or disturbances in our ability to smell!
Taste disturbances can often be associated with malnutrition, decreased salivary flow (dry mouth), radiation and chemotherapy, the use of certain medications (specifically diuretics and ACE inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure), chronic inflammation, autoimmune disorders and damage to the nerves innervating the taste and olfactory pathways. Taste disturbances are rarely associated with external sources such as leaky fillings or infection, but rather usually emanate from problems within the taste system itself.
Got all that? As my mother used to say: “Clear as mud!” Please let me know if you think you may be experiencing a problem affecting your ability to taste, as there is often an easy fix to the problem. See you soon!