Food can be much more than a means of providing the body necessary sustenance. Many special occasions revolve around a celebratory meal, dinner is a popular first date choice and coffee on the run is a daily ritual for some. Part of the allure of good food is savoring the taste. But what if you can't taste it? Here's why some people experience a loss of taste.
Taste Loss and Smell Disorders
There are five basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory. You taste things due to the stimulation of sensory cells in your mouth and throat. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) explains that those sensory cells, known as gustatory cells, are activated when tiny molecules are released when you drink fluids or chew or digest food. The gustatory cells are clumped with the taste buds found on your tongue and the roof of your mouth.
Your abilities to taste and smell are closely related, says the NIDCD. When your mouth can't differentiate between a sweet treat and a savory steak, there's a good chance the problem is a smell disorder causing your taste loss.
Taste Loss and Aging
A natural loss of taste and smell is common in people who are 60 years and older, says the Mayo Clinic. But other issues can hamper an older person's ability to taste, too. Some of the more common ones include allergies, diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, medication side effects, dental issues and cigarette smoking.
The loss of taste can have health effects on older adults, including a decrease in appetite, poor nutrition and depression. A diminished ability to taste might cause someone to increase their use of salt and sugar, which may negatively affect people who have diabetes or high blood pressure.
Other Causes of Loss of Taste
Taste issues result when something interrupts taste sensations finding their way to the brain or being interpretted correctly, notes the National Institutes of Health. Causes of this dysfunction range from medical conditions to mouth issues. They include the following:
- The common cold
- Salivary gland infections
- The flu and other viral infections
- Bell's palsy
- Head trauma, mouth injury or ear injury
- Oral issues including strep throat, gingivitis and dry mouth
- Vitamin B12 or zinc deficiency
Treating Taste Loss
Until your taste loss can be treated, there are steps you can take. The American Academy of Otolaryngology suggests starting by writing down as much as you know about your circumstances. Where and when did you first notice your taste loss? Is it chronic? Were you sick? Is it seasonal? Supply your doctor with all of that information during your appointment.
Treatment options depend on addressing what's causing your taste loss. For example, your doctor might adjust your medication dosage or type if they determine that is the root of the problem. Quitting smoking has numerous health benefits, including restoring taste you lost to the habit. Colds and the flu can be treated with antihistamines and decongestants. Antibiotics can solve issues, such as sinusitis and salivary gland infections, that affect taste. Prescription medication might be necessary for a disorder like Bell's palsy. In cases of aging, however, some taste loss is to be expected.
Improved oral care is another method to treat taste loss. Schedule regular cleanings with your dentist, and make it a daily habit to brush twice and floss once. Try the Colgate 360° Optic Whitetoothbrush. It will help whiten teeth by polishing away surface stains and clean hard to reach areas. It also comfortably removes odor-causing bacteria.