Taste and smell are two of our most important senses and we often assume that we will always be able to use them. These precious senses help us enjoy foods and appreciate their delicious flavors. Besides, being able to taste and smell can also protect us against potential dangers such as poisons, fires, or gases. The loss of taste and smell can be very alarming. The two are closely linked together and, in fact, without the sense of smell we are not able to fully taste things.
Taste involves five different types, including salty, sour, sweet, umami, and bitter. Beyond that, taste is limited without smell. We detect taste through our taste buds that are mostly located on the top of the tongue. Our brain registers signals from the taste buds to tell us what we are tasting. The subtle part of taste actually comes from smell receptors, located in the upper part of the nose. We can put things in our mouth and detect their specific tastes as the smell from the food goes up into the nose.
The senses of taste and smell are chemical in nature and are a part of chemosensation. What happens during the act of taste and smell is that the small molecules emitted by the food we eat stimulate cells in the throat, nose and mouth. The cells are neurological in nature and send signals to our brain so that the brain can identify what the tastes and smells really are.
The olfactory cells in the nose are activated by the smells we experience, such as the aroma of a rose or the smell of roast chicken. These cells are located above the cribriform plate in the nose and are connected closely to brain cells.
The gustatory cells are located within the taste buds inside our throat and mouth. When we eat, foods and beverages are mixed with saliva and the molecules from them are picked up by the cells in the taste buds, which in turn interact with nerve fibers connected. It is these nerve fibers that send messages to the brain to help identify the taste of what you eat.
There are many things that can result in the losing taste and smell, which include:
You should see an ENT specialist if you believe you have lost your sense of taste and smell. The doctor will do an examination and may use a flexible endoscopic device to see what is going on inside your nose. You can be tested for allergies, which affect your senses. Sometimes a CT or MRI scan can be done in order to make sure there aren’t any problems in the brain that could cause impaired tasting and smelling.
If you have lost your sense of taste or smell, you should try to find out the underlying cause of the problem. Try to identify when it first happened, such as during the flu or a bad cold. Could there have been allergens in the air that contributed to your loss of taste and smell? Does it happen often or every once in a while?
Inform the doctor these answers may help him/her identify the cause of your problem. The diagnosis might be something that is reversible so you can gain your senses again. Many times, if you deal with the underlying problem appropriately, you can get back your sense of taste and smell.
Losing your sense of taste and smell can also present potential threats to your safety. Here are some reasons why: