Taste sensation – Phillip Silver – Solvay Dental 360™

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  Posted by: Dental Design      17th October 2018

Taste sensation

Food supplies fuel to the body and eating is a basic human need. Every cell in the body depends upon a continuous supply of nutrients and yet, food is also strongly associated with human emotions. Everyone has probably experienced the pleasure of sitting down to a good meal with friends or family and there is evidence to suggest that the social aspect of eating can have an impact on feelings of well-being and overall satisfaction with life.[1]Food offering can symbolise celebration, support, love and hospitality and eating can provide comfort, security, reward and even help to reduce stress. The foods that an individual chooses can be influenced by past experiences, family and culture but also nutritional value and of course, taste.

As dental professionals know, a healthy diet is vital for the development of the teeth as well as the prevention of dental caries, dental erosion, oral mucosal diseases and periodontal diseases.[2]Likewise, the condition of the oral cavity plays an important role in nutritional status, self-esteem and quality of life. There are numerous studies that describe the implications of dental caries on children’s health[3]for example, and there are also substantial numbers of older people with few or no natural teeth that have a reduced nutritional intake as their ability to chew certain foods is compromised.[4]The appearance of the teeth can also have an impact on psychological well-being and plays a key role in social interaction as well as the social perceptions.[5],[6]Indeed, oral health affects individuals physically as well as psychologically and influences how they develop, look, speak, socialise, chew and taste food.[7]

The sense of taste is a powerful predictor of food selection, an important aspect of nutrition, health and well-being and also, fundamental to human survival. Our ability to distinguish between different tastes enables us to select certain nutrients and also allows us to avoid and reject bitter substances such as poisons.[8]Taste has been described as “the sense by which chemical qualities of food in the mouth are distinguished by the brain, based on information provided by the taste buds” and researchers have identified five main taste qualities: salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami (savoury).[9]These taste qualities are important because they enable specific distinctions to be made between different foods, which guide and help to balance and control the intake of salty, acidic, protein rich and calorie rich foods.9

All individuals have personal preferences, of course, but the way in which foods and drinks are experienced in terms of flavour, also depends on other senses, which derive largely from smell but also texture and temperature. Nevertheless, taste deficits or a distorted sense of taste can significantly reduce the enjoyment and pleasure that is normally gained from eating and drinking.For obvious reasons this can cause a lack of appetite and may contribute to an eating disorder and can potentially lead to weight loss, poor nutrition and weakened immunity.

Taste ability naturally weakens with age but trauma, surgical procedures, metal exposure and radiation can also alter taste.[10]Some drugs and medications can affect taste directly or by causing oral dryness, which compromises the ability of foods and other substances to reach the taste buds via saliva.[11]As dental professionals are well aware, there has long been some controversy about the interaction of dental amalgam within the oral environment and it has been reported that these restorations could affect taste through a variety of complex mechanisms.[12]

Interestingly too, in a large study of participants with dental restorations and appliances, 5 per cent of subjects reported a metallic taste at any given time.[13]Research indicates that upper removable dentures can affect taste by preventing food from being dispersed and making contact with palatal taste receptors. In some cases, denture design can cause food debris to become trapped and cause an unpleasant taste, and in others normal oral mobility (i.e. the tongue and cheeks) can become compromised, which may prevent the release and movement of aromas and flavours.10,[14]Metallic taste disturbances caused by metal framed removable partial dentures (RPDs) have also been reported, which can have a considerable impact on patient acceptance levels.   

Fortunately, modern dentistry now offers a range of suitable substitutes for metals in the mouth. Similarly, regular trials and advancements in digital technology enable the fabrication of accurate, functional and highly aesthetic restorations and dental devices. For instance, Solvay Dental 360™ has developed Ultaire™ AKP specifically for the fabrication of RPD frames. This is a high performance, new generation material, which is lightweight and biocompatible and meets all critical performance requirements of strength, fit and retention. Ultaire™ AKP is a hi-tech, metal free alternative for RPD frames, which also offers the added advantage of being completely taste free.

The pleasure and enjoyment that can be gained from tasting food properly is by no means inconsequential. Accordingly, dental practitioners must remain mindful of any materials that may interfere with a patient’s sense of taste or natural oral movements and take steps to preserve good health, nutrition and quality of life.


For more information about – Solvay Dental 360™, Ultaire™ AKP and Dentivera™ milling discs, please visit www.solvaydental360.com

[1]Dunbar R.I.M. Breaking Break: the Functions of Social Eating. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology. Sept 2017 3 (3) 198-211. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40750-017-0061-4[Accessed 4th July 2018]
[2]Ghosh A. et al. Nutrition and Oral Health: A Review. Indian Journal of Applied Science. Nov 2015 5(11)546-549. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283345547_Nutrition_and_Oral_Health_A_Review[Accessed 4th July 2018]
[3]Hakan C. et al. Early childhood caries update: A review of causes, diagnosis and treatments. J Nat Sci Biol Med Jan-Jun 2013. 4(1) 29-38. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3633299/[Accessed 4thJuly 2018]
[4]Walls A.W.G. et al. The relationship between oral health and nutrition in older people. Mechanisms of Ageing and Development. Dec 2004 125(12) 853-857. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047637404001769[Accessed 4th July 2018]
[5]Kershaw S. The influence of tooth colour on the perceptions of personal characteristics among female dental patients: comparisons of unmodified, decayed and ‘whitened’ teeth. Br Dent J.  Mar 2008. 8; 204(5):E9; discussion 256-257. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18297050[Accessed 4th July 2018]
[6]Afroz S. et al. Dental Esthetics and Its Impact on Psycho-Social Well-Being and Dental Self Confidence: A Campus Based Survey of North Indian University Students. J Indian Prosthodont Soc. Dec 2013. 13(4): 455–460. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3792334/
[Accessed 4th July 2018]
[7]Shelham A. Oral health, general health and quality of life. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/83/9/editorial30905html/en/[Accessed 4thJuly 2018]
[8]Drewnowski A. et al. The influence of genetic taste markers on food acceptance. Am J Clin Nutr 1995 62:506-511. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=[Accessed 4thJuly 2018]
[9]Bradbury J. Taste Perception: Cracking the Code. PLoS Biol Mar 2004. 2(3): e64. http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.0020064[Accessed 4th July 2018]
[10]Bromley SM. Smell and taste disorders: a primary care approach. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Jan 15;61(2):427-36, 438. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10670508[Accessed 19th June 2017]
[11]Mott A.E. et al. Part 1. The Body. Sensory Systems. Taste. Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health & Safety. Mar 2011. http://www.iloencyclopaedia.org/part-i-47946/sensory-systems/11/taste[Accessed 4th July 2018]
[12]Marek M. Interactions between dental amalgams and the oral environment. Advances in Dental Research. Research Article. Sept 1992 6 (1)100-109. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/08959374920060010101[Accessed 4th July 2018]
[13]Morris H.F. Veterans Administration Cooperative Studies Project No. 147: association of metallic taste with metal ceramic alloys.
J Prosthet Dent.
 Feb 1990. 63(2):124-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2304018[Accessed 4th July 2018]
[14]McHenry KR. Oral prosthesis and chemosensory taste function. A review of the literature. N Y State Dent J. 1992 May;58(5):36-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1594158[Accessed 19th June 2017]


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