July 19, 2021 – People who have had their wisdom teeth removed have a better sense of taste decades after surgery, according to a study that alleviates concerns about side effects from the procedure.
Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that emerge from the gums in late adolescence or early adulthood. When healthy and properly aligned in the mouth, they can be of benefit. But when these molars invade neighboring teeth or do not fully come out of the gums, they need to be removed.
So far, studies have focused on people who say dental care has weakened their sense of taste, reports lead author Richard Doty, PhD, director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. . But these symptoms are thought to subside over time, he says.
To assess the long-term effects of surgery, he and his colleague, dental student Dane Kim, followed more than 1,200 people for 20 years.
The pair evaluated 891 people who had had a third molar extraction and 364 who had not. Everyone was asked to put different tasting solutions – sweet, sour, salty or bitter – in their mouths.
Overall, taste test results were better for people whose wisdom teeth had been removed than for those with a full set of 32 adult teeth.
Why this happens remains a mystery. Nerve damage to the taste buds during molar extraction may increase the sensitivity of the entire mouth, the researchers say. Or it could be that the nerve damage is triggering some type of oral hypersensitivity.
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