01 Jul Wisdom Teeth Removal Linked to Long Term Improvement in Taste
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dane Kim, Dental Student
University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: This large study was inspired, in part, by a previous publication, Gustatory Function After Third Molar Extraction (Shafer et al. 1999), which examined the effect of third molar extractions on human taste function. Their work was based upon more severe extractions and followed patients only up to six months after their surgery. Studies examining taste function over a longer period, i.e., beyond six months from the surgery, were non-existent.
The Smell and Taste Center of Penn Medicine, which is the only center of its type in the United States, has a large unique database of patients who have been thoroughly tested for both smell and taste function. This provided us with the opportunity to compare data from hundreds of persons who had previously received third-molar extractions to those who had not received such extractions. Importantly, the extracts had occurred years before thee taste testing.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: To our surprise, we discovered that, even after controlling for such factors as age, sex, education level, and the medical reason for seeking evaluation at the Center, that the group that had received wisdom tooth removal years prior to their taste test outperformed their peers who never had such removal. Our study also confirmed that women outperform men in their ability to taste sweet, sour, salty, and bitter compounds, and that aging has a diminishing effect on taste.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: Our study shows, for the first time, that removal of the third molars actually can result in long-term improvement in the ability to taste basic tastes, i.e., sweet, sour, bitter and salty solutions, in some persons. Although, in rare instances, wisdom tooth extraction can result in short-term declines in taste sensitivity, such declines typically resolve over time. What was surprising to us is that such resolution can actually result in better test scores than in persons who have not had third molar extractions. We stress, however, that this improvement is very modest and most likely is not recognized by the person who has received wisdom tooth removal. Moreover, this effect is not present in everyone.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: As our study is a cross-sectional one, longitudinal studies with more dental information (e.g. the degree of impaction/eruption, relation of tooth to second molar, radiographic signs of proximity to the inferior alveolar canal, degree of bone removal, etc.) are needed to more firmly establish causality between third molar extractions and long-term taste improvement. Assuming that our findings are supported by other studies, this research may facilitate a greater understanding of factors that could be instituted in the future to improve the functioning of nerves in general.
Shafer DM. et al. 1999. Gustatory function after third molar extraction. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 87(4): 419-28
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