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Getting wisdom teeth removed may improve your sense of taste, study finds

Researchers say the surgery required to remove wisdom teeth can affect our taste buds

Photo (c) Peter Dazeley - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine discovered an interesting finding related to removing wisdom teeth. According to the researchers, consumers that have gotten their wisdom teeth removed may develop a strong sense of taste. 

“Prior studies have only pointed to adverse effects on taste after extraction and it has been generally believed that those effects dissipate over time,” said researcher Richard L. Doty, Ph.D. “This new study shows us that taste function can actually slightly improve between the time patients have surgery and up to 20 years later. It’s a surprising but fascinating finding that deserves further investigation to better understand why it’s enhanced and what it may mean clinically.” 

Long-term taste improvement

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 1,200 patients who had their taste evaluated at Penn’s Smell and Taste Center. Of that group, nearly 900 had their wisdom teeth removed. In the taste test, participants tested five different solutions and then had to report on whether they were salty, sweet, bitter, or sour. 

Overall, those who had their wisdom teeth removed performed better on the taste test than those who still had their wisdom teeth. The findings showed that women who had their wisdom teeth removed tended to outperform men who also had their wisdom teeth removed. The study showed that the difference was subtle -- participants experienced as much as 10% difference in taste when their wisdom teeth were removed. 

The researchers explained that this trend may exist because of the way the nerves are affected following extraction surgery. Exposing the nerves in the mouth during surgery can actually make taste buds across the entire mouth more sensitive. 

“Further studies are needed to determine the mechanism or mechanisms behind the extraction-related improvement in taste function,” Dr. Doty said. “The effects are subtle but may provide insight into how long-term improvement in neural function can result from altering the environment in which the nerves propagate.” 

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