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Facts

Thank you for your interest in the Taste and Smell Center. You are one of about 2 million adult Americans affected by taste or smell disorders. Unfortunately, very little is known about these problems, which is why our Clinic was established in 1981 with funds from the National Institutes of Health. We evaluate patients with taste and smell problems at weekly clinics, as well as conduct taste and smell research programs here at the Health Center. Treatment is offered when appropriate, although less than a third of patients evaluated here will be determined to have a treatable taste or smell problem.

If you wish to be evaluated here, please contact our Call Center at 860-679-2459

What Are the Chemical Senses?

The chemical senses include taste and smell. The perception of a smell occurs when substances in the air pass through the nose and stimulate the olfactory (smell) nerve. The experience of taste, or gustation, occurs when the taste buds in your mouth respond to substances dissolved in saliva. The four basic tastes are salty, sweet, sour and bitter.

 What Are Some of the Disorders of Taste and Smell?

  • Anosmia - total loss of smell
  • Hyposmia - partial loss of smell
  • Parosmia - perceiving a smell when no odor is present or perceiving familiar odors as smelling strange
  • Hypogeusia - a diminished sense of taste
  • Dysgeusia - a persistent taste, usually unpleasant

What Are the Causes of Taste and Smell Disorders?

Losses or distortions of taste and smell have many causes such as nasal disease, upper respiratory infections, head injury, neurological disorders, or dental problems. There are some people who have had no sense of smell since birth.

Are Taste and Smell Related?

Taste and smell are two separate senses. However, both contribute to the experience of flavor.

What Is Flavor?

Flavor is what people commonly call the "taste" of food. It is actually a combination of smell, taste, spiciness, temperature and texture. Much of the flavor of food comes from smell, so that when you are unable to smell you have lost much of your ability to experience flavor.

What Can Be Done to Improve the Flavor of Food?

Eating can be more enjoyable when the other aspects of flavor, such as texture, temperature, and spiciness are emphasized. Texture can be enhanced by adding crunchy foods (nuts, croutons, water chestnuts) to your meals. Combining cold and hot temperatures in the same dish (sour cream on a baked potato), as well as trying hot and spicy foods may help to make food less bland. Keep in mind that a pleasant atmosphere and attractively prepared meals can also help to make food more enjoyable.

What Other Suggestions Are There for People with a Taste/Smell Loss?

We would strongly recommend that you equip your home with smoke detectors. Those individuals potentially exposed to gas leaks should consider purchasing a gas detector. Your gas company should be able to supply you with information regarding gas detectors. If not, the Taste and Smell Center can be contacted for this information. In order to guard against eating food you suspect may be spoiled, ask someone else to smell it. If that is impossible, pay particular attention to the dates stamped on most perishable foods and do not consume them after that date.

  
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