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.