A recent study refutes the notion that wisdom tooth extraction has a negative impact on taste.

The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine discovered that extraction not only improves taste buds but that the effects last for a long time.

"Prior studies have only pointed to adverse effects on taste after extraction, and it has been generally believed that those effects dissipate over time," Richard L. Doty, director of the Smell and Taste Center at Penn, said per Eurekalert.

Patient Adriane Williams of Portland reacts as she is shown a wisdom tooth with a cavity
(Photo: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Patient Adriane Williams of Portland reacts as she is shown a wisdom tooth with a cavity that was pulled during her visit to Dunstan Dental Center in Scarbrough Friday, Nov. 5, 2010. Showing Williams her tooth is Dr. Denise Theriault and to the right is hygienist Stephanie Fortier. Several offices in Southern Maine offered free dental care for the day.

This new study demonstrates that taste function can improve slightly between the time of surgery and up to 20 years later, experts said.

"It's a surprising but fascinating finding that deserves further investigation to better understand why it's enhanced and what it may mean clinically," Doty added.

What Is Wisdom Tooth?

Mayo Clinic said the third molars in the back of the mouth are known as wisdom teeth. The majority of folks have two on top and two on the bottom. They normally appear between the ages of 17 and 25 and are the last adult teeth to emerge.

A dentist will prescribe extraction if they become impacted, meaning they do not have enough room to emerge or develop normally. Extractions are a common dental operation since most people's mouths are too small to accommodate four more teeth.

Wisdom teeth that have been impacted can cause pain and harm to the surrounding teeth. Furthermore, because these teeth are more challenging to keep clean, they can raise a person's risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Per John Hopkins Medicine, the symptoms include red or bleeding gums, jaw pain, trouble opening your mouth, and poor breath are all symptoms.

ALSO READ: Anatomy of Human Teeth

Extraction's Effect on Taste

Over 20 years, Doty and co-author Dane Kim, a third-year dental medicine student at Penn, evaluated data on 1,255 individuals who had a chemosensory examination at Penn's Smell and Taste Center. 891 of the patients had their wisdom teeth removed.

The patients were instructed to taste five various amounts of sucrose, sodium chloride, citric acid, and caffeine and then rate how sweet, salty, sour, or bitter they found them. Each patient was instructed to take a drink of the solution and then swish it around in their mouth.

Overall, the extraction group outperformed the control group by at least 3-10% for each of the four tastes. In every case, women's palates were more refined than men's.

The study strongly suggests that extracting the third molar has a long-term if the little, favorable effect on the function of some people's lingual taste circuits.

Though the cause of the improved taste is unknown, the researchers believe nerve injury, which can occur after surgery, may be a factor. They stated that damage to the taste buds in the front of the mouth could increase the sensitivity of taste buds in the back of the mouth, resulting in increased whole-mouth sensitivity.

Previous research has demonstrated that after a peripheral nerve injury caused by a procedure such as wisdom teeth extraction, repetitive mild motion, such as chewing, can gradually enhance the irritated tissue's sensitivity.

However, it is unclear whether this is the case with flavor. More research is needed, according to Doty, to figure out what is causing the improvement in taste function.

The impacts are minor, but they may provide insight into how changing the environment in which neurons propagate might lead to long-term improvements in brain function.

Experts uploaded the study titled "Positive Long-Term Effects of Third Molar Extraction on Taste Function," the journal Chemical Senses.

RELATED ARTICLE: How to Relieve Wisdom Tooth Pain  

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