It is generally believed that the removal of wisdom teeth has negative effects on a person’s taste function. However, these said negative effects fade eventually as time passes. Now, in this recent study, it turns out that the same process could also improve a person’s taste function slightly in the long term. Richard L. Doty, PhD, the senior author of this study, has this to say:
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“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.”
Why does this happen? The authors point to two possibilities.
First, extraction damage to the nerves that innervate the taste buds on the front of the mouth can release inhibition on nerves that supply the taste buds at the rear of the mouth, increasing whole-mouth sensitivity. Second, hypersensitivity after peripheral nerve injury from a surgery like an extraction has been well documented in other contexts.
There is evidence, for example, from animal studies that repetitive light touch, which might occur during chewing, gradually accentuates neural responses from irritated tissue that can lead to progressive long-term tactile hypersensitivity. Whether this occurs for taste, however, is not known.
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