Food glorious food so goes that famous song from the hit musical Oliver! But sometimes food doesn’t taste quite as good as it should.
Periodically we are asked this question: Does wearing dentures have any effect on your sense of taste?
The answer is both yes and no. Sorry, it’s already confusing; but yes in the short-term and no, long term.
New denture wearers are likely to experience some drop in the level of taste sensation in the beginning.
Your mouth needs to go through a period of adjustment while it gets used to the way the dentures feel and ‘taste’.
However, in a relatively short time, you should experience a return of typical taste sensation as in your pre-denture days.
Let’s examine how the sensation of taste works and how dentures can affect it, but let’s first examine ageing and taste.
Can dentures affect taste?
The sensation of taste when older
As we age, our sense of taste diminishes, but it’s very uneven across the menu of our food choices. For instance, some older people
Some flavours may not be affected at all. Because they are better able to taste salty and sweet flavours, some older adults lean heavily on foods high in salt or sugar, because they are easier to taste than more subtle flavourings.
The waters are further muddied by a diminished sense of smell with ageing.
Smell and taste are interrelated
The sensations of taste and smell are interrelated, – they work together as a team. There are four basic tastes that the nerve receptors in our nose, mouth and throat recognise. They are sweet, sour, bitter and salty.
The nerve receptors in the nose, or olfactory system, are usually the first to report to the brain. That’s why you can walk into a room, smell the air and say: “I can smell beef cooking,” or “that curry is strong.”
We can discern flavour through smell. We know what the food is before we taste it because your brain has an associative memory with odours, particularly strong ones.
The only basic taste that the nose cannot identify is salty.
Taste receptors in nose and mouth
Most of the taste buds in your mouth are near the tip and around the edges of your tongue, but some are also in your throat, and a few are located in the roof of your mouth.
A denture that covers the upper palate is more likely to result in loss of taste because the palate plays a role in taste and smell. But usually, this is only for a short period. Once the mouth has become accustomed to the denture, and the brain has sifted out the signals being generated between the food and prosthetic, typical taste should resume.
We must note too that the role of the palate in taste discernment seems highly variable and not everyone is significantly impacted by dentures that cover the palate.
A full standard upper denture has an acrylic plate that stretches across the roof of the mouth covering the palate and therefore cloaking the small number of taste buds located there.
The rest of the taste buds in the tip and edges of the tongue are now always in contact with the denture, tasting the denture material.
As food enters your mouth, the nerve receptors send a signal to the brain to order the production of saliva. As the food is chewed, the tongue and teeth work to mash it and together with the saliva bring out the taste.
Combined with these clever mechanics are the smell receptors in your nose, and the brain is flooded with data resulting as what we determine as flavour.
No matter what you eat at first, the taste of the denture will be reported to the brain, along with any other tastes detected.
Taste senses targeting food
The good news is that this is only noticeable in the short term. Eventually, the taste buds and the brain will become accustomed to the constant report of the denture and will ignore it.
Your nerve receptors will then begin to concentrate more on the new items entering your mouth, and your taste senses will be focused on them, not your dentures.
To sum up, while denture wearers may have some initial concerns about how their dentures will affect taste, dentures should bring temporary changes.
Note: With the use of chrome dentures, it is sometimes possible to reduce the size of the ‘plate’ thus potentially exposing more taste buds.
If your tasting troubles continue, be sure to consult with your dentist. Some modifications can be made to some types of dentures to lessen the area of the denture base and lower the amount of denture plastic.
Implant retained over-dentures
Implant retained over-dentures
Another possible solution to enhance the taste is with implant secured dentures where generally the prosthetic can be much smaller. In the construction of an upper denture, the palate (roof of the mouth) is covered to improve suction.
This allows the upper denture to have better retention and increases the chance the denture will stay in place during eating.
Dental implants prevent the need for suction to retain the denture and the ‘plate’ on the denture can be removed, thus opening up the ability to increase taste and feel the temperature from food and drink.
Don’t put up with problems
If you are experiencing issues with taste as a denture wearer, please don’t just put up with it. Give us a call and see our denturist and practice principal Steven Burchell DipCDT RCS(Eng). First consultations are complimentary.