You may not have realized, but your mouth plays a large part in helping you recognize certain smells. While your nose does the majority of the work, your mouth also plays a part in helping you smell, especially when you’re chewing your favorite foods. This fact is fascinating to your family dentist in Franklin, plus the claim can be backed up by science, according to a recent study from Oregon State University. Keep reading to learn more!
How the Process Works
When we chew foods, volatile molecules are released in the process. These molecules can easily drift through the mouth and to the back of the nose. At this point, you’re likely to smell the food you’re eating even when you aren’t directly smelling it.
An Overview of the Study
To better understand this phenomenon, two scientists conducted a study involving 102 non-smoking healthy people between the ages of 18 and 72 years old. These participants rated how intensely they noticed two distinct tastes and four odors. The tastes included sweet and salty, while the odors included strawberry, vanilla, chicken, and soy sauce. They were also given combinations of tastes and odors, such as sweet and vanilla or salty and chicken.
One of the main points of study the scientists focused on was the age of the participants. Not only did they want to test the mouth’s influence on sensing smell, but also how it changes based on age. The results proved to be insightful and in agreement with previous studies on the topic.
The scientists found that participants were much better at recognizing tastes than specific odors. Only three percent of participants had trouble recognizing sweet and salty while nearly 25 percent of participants described difficulty recognizing food-related aromas. They also found that people generally experience taste the same way, but odor in different levels of intensity. This became increasingly dependent on age, as the older the participants were, the more difficulty they had recognizing smells.
“Generally, large individual differences in odor responsiveness become even greater when aging is a factor,” according to researcher Tyler Flaherty. He found that age diminished people’s ability to smell more than it did their ability to taste, especially when faced with combinations of conflicting odors and tastes. When strawberry was smelled in tandem with a sweet taste sample, it was much easier to recognize both.
“The current study offers insights on why people who are relatively insensitive to food odors alone may not notice a potential deficit during actual food consumption,” said Juyun Lim, another researcher running the study.
Want to learn more about the biology of your mouth? Ask your family dentist in Franklin about it during your next scheduled appointment. We hope to see you there!
About the Author
Dr. Paige Prather earned her dental degree from the Ohio State University College of Dentistry. After completion, she pursued a one-year dental residency at the Dayton Veterans Hospital. Since then, she’s spent countless hours continuing her education allowing her to offer many services in her practice. To learn more about these services or schedule an appointment, contact your dentist in Franklin at (615) 771-2151 or visit her website.