Gustatory function after third molar extraction

Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod. 1999 Apr;87(4):419-28. doi: 10.1016/s1079-2104(99)70240-4.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the severity and time course of taste changes after extraction of all 4 third molars.

Study design: Taste function in 17 patients was measured before third molar surgery and at 1 month and 6 months after surgery. Two tests were administered: a whole-mouth, above-threshold test in which subjects sipped, expectorated, and then rated the intensities and identified the taste qualities of various solutions, and a localized test in which subjects rated and identified solutions painted with cotton swabs on different oral sites.

Results: Intensity ratings for solutions in the whole-mouth test were reduced by approximately 14% for NaCl, citric acid, and quinine hydrochloride at 1 month after surgery and had not recovered by 6 months after surgery for citric acid (P<.02). The taste quality of NaCl was identified correctly less frequently after third molar extraction. Perceived taste intensity on discrete areas of the tongue was significantly reduced after surgery (P<.05). Patients with the most severely impacted molars gave the lowest taste intensity ratings to whole-mouth test solutions at 6 months after surgery (P<.02). In contrast, taste function in a group of subjects who received only local dental anesthesia was not affected.

Conclusions: Gustatory deficits occur after third molar extraction, persist for as long as 6 months after surgery, and appear to be associated with depth of impaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anesthesia, Dental / adverse effects
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Citric Acid
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lingual Nerve Injuries
  • Male
  • Molar, Third / surgery*
  • Nerve Block / adverse effects
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quinine
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Sucrose
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taste Disorders / etiology*
  • Tooth Extraction / adverse effects*
  • Tooth, Impacted / surgery


  • Citric Acid
  • Sodium Chloride
  • Sucrose
  • Quinine