Taste Disorders (cont.)

What are the taste disorders?

The most common taste disorder is phantom taste perception; that is, a lingering, often unpleasant taste even though you have nothing in your mouth. We also can experience a reduced ability to taste sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami, a condition called hypogeusia. Some people cannot detect any tastes, which is called ageusia. True taste loss, however, is rare. Most often, people are experiencing a loss of smell instead of a loss of taste.

In other disorders of the chemical senses, an odor, a taste, or a flavor may be distorted. Dysgeusia is a condition in which a foul, salty, rancid, or metallic taste sensation will persist in the mouth. Dysgeusia is sometimes accompanied by burning mouth syndrome, a condition in which a person experiences a painful burning sensation in the mouth. Although it can affect anyone, burning mouth syndrome is most common in middle-aged and older women.

What causes taste disorders?

Some people are born with taste disorders, but most develop them after an injury or illness. Among the causes of taste problems are:

  • Upper respiratory and middle ear infections
  • Radiation therapy for cancers of the head and neck
  • Exposure to certain chemicals, such as insecticides and some medications, including some common antibiotics and antihistamines
  • Head injury
  • Some surgeries to the ear, nose, and throat (e.g., third molar—wisdom tooth—extraction and middle ear surgery)
  • Poor oral hygiene and dental problems
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/9/2014

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