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Does Age Dull Your Sense of Taste?

If you find yourself increasingly reaching for the salt or dunking your food into the nearest condiment, you may be experiencing an age-related dulling of your sense of taste. Just as you find yourself needing reading glasses or turning up the volume on the television, your sense of taste isn’t immune to the natural aging process.

At our practice, which is headed up by Nataly Vilderman, DDS, we want our San Francisco area patients to enjoy their lives with great dental health, which includes a sense of taste. To that end, we’ve explored how age, and other conditions, can lead to a loss of taste, and what you might be able to do about it.

The fifth sense

When you’re born, you come equipped with approximately 9,000 taste buds that cover your tongue, the back of your throat, and even along the roof of your mouth. These tiny bundles of sensory cells are in tune to five different categories of tastes: sweet, savory, sour, bitter, and salty.

To perform their jobs, these sensory cells turn over very quickly, about once every 1-2 weeks, which explains why you can recover quickly from burning your tongue on a hot cup of coffee.

While you’re young, this cell regeneration is strong, as it is everywhere else in your body, and your cells are easily able to routinely rebuild themselves to keep all of your systems functioning smoothly.

As you grow older, however, the damage begins to pile up, leaving your body in a struggle to keep up with repairs. And your cells aren’t as strong as they once were, making regeneration all the more difficult.

The bottom line is that any damage you inflict as you get older is harder to overcome, which begins to exact a toll on your sense of taste.

Outside of age

When it comes to your sense of taste, there are many influences, but none more important than your sense of smell, which works hand-in-hand with your taste buds. Often, a person may feel like they’re losing their sense of taste, when the problem actually stems from their sense of smell.

If you’re on the younger side of life and you’re experiencing a loss of senses, it’s important that you see your doctor to get to the bottom of the problem in case there’s something larger at play.

While age and your sense of smell are often the culprits behind a loss of taste, there are other conditions, such as smoking, certain medications, colds and flus, and gum disease, which can dull your taste buds.

When it comes to this last point, gum disease, there’s a lot we can do to restore great health to your gums, allowing your entire mouth to function better, including your taste buds.

Preserving flavor

While there’s little we can do about aging, armed with the knowledge about how it affects your sense of taste there are some small steps you can take to preserve this important sense. First, be mindful that your taste buds aren’t able to regenerate as they once did.

So before you dive into that hot bowl of delicious soup, give it an extra minute or two to cool down. Second, if you’re aging, but you also fall into other risk categories, such as smoking, quitting this bad habit is one of the best things you can do to help your taste buds, not to mention your overall health.

Finally, keep up with your dental care. Your body is an amazingly complex machine and if one area isn’t functioning properly, the effect can be widespread. By ensuring your good dental health, you can create a healthy environment where your taste buds can thrive.

To get on the road to great oral health, please give us a call or use the online booking tool found on this website to schedule an appointment.

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