The kind of sweet taste that isn’t attributable to eating sweets or drinking sweet drinks? You may be somewhat comforted to know that you’re not alone! Many people see their doctors every year as a result of a change in, or loss of, taste or smell. A constant sweetness in your mouth is as good a reason to see your doctor as any. To aid the diagnosis, you may be asked to undergo a complete physical exam. In this way, doctors can eliminate possible reasons for the sweetness. Should this taste in one’s mouth be intermittent, it’s most likely harmless. However, should it be continuous, there may be a more serious underlying physical condition, and it could have a negative impact on your life.
Whom Should You See?
Your physical examination will include an assessment of your oral hygiene, nose, ears, and throat and a gustatory test. Otolaryngologists (doctors who specialize in the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck) can check the extent of the gustatory problem and can diagnose disorders of both gustation and smell – these two senses are closely related. You will be required to compare different tastes to test the extent of your gustatory disorder. It may just be a “sip, spit, and rinse” test, or the substance may be applied directly to your tongue. You may also be asked to have a CAT scan to check if the nerves in the oral area or head are affected.
You may need to see a neurologist, as strokes, seizure disorders, or even epilepsy could be responsible for the oral cavity sweetness. The neurologist may check to see if you have any neurological disorders that affect the normal functioning of the nerve receptors. This can prevent the brain from receiving signals that give particular tastes to food. Disruption of nerve signals can result in you getting a sense of sweetness in the oral cavity.
Can a Taste Disorder Be Serious?
A constant sweetness in the mouth can also signal a metabolic problem such as diabetic neuropathy (when the nerve that regulates gustation is impaired). Many diabetic patients complain of a lingering sweetness, which is due to abnormally high blood sugar levels. And some medicines or medical procedures can affect your sense of smell and gustation.
It can also be a sign of serious degenerative nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or multiple sclerosis. This is because electrical disturbances in the brain caused by these disorders impede the normal functioning of the nerve that sends gustatory signals, and this may lead to a sweet sensation in one’s mouth.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or simple heartburn can also cause sweetness in the mouth. GERD causes heartburn and acid indigestion due to reflux, which is when the stomach’s contents are pushed back up into the esophagus. This acid reflux can cause a sweet flavor in one’s mouth, and this is usually accompanied by chest pain.
Some viruses attack the olfactory nerve or taste nerve, which leads to a sweet taste to be perceived in the oral cavity. Pseudomonas infection, which can be fatal, causes severe sinusitis, which interferes with the taste buds of the mouth and also causes itchy noses and swimmer’s ear. However, this infection is rare in healthy individuals and can be easily treated with antibiotics.
Taste as an Early Warning System
Gustation occurs when food stimulates special sensory cells (gustatory cells or taste buds) in the mouth and throat. Other nerve endings allow us to sense burning or irritation caused by chillies, or the coolness caused by mint, or the sensation of heat, cold, and texture. When eating, these sensations combine with our sense of taste and the food’s aroma to allow us to perceive flavor.
Gustation gives us an early warning for spoiled or contaminated food and also allows us to sense and thereby avoid foods that we might be allergic to. A distorted gustation can be a problem for those who need to stick to a specific diet. If your gustation is impaired, you may change your eating habits and eat too little and lose weight or eat too much and gain weight. In order to make food taste better, you could also eat too much sugar or salt, which can create serious health issues.
Smell Versus Gustation
The senses of smell and gustation are closely aligned, and when you cannot smell, food can taste bland. This may give you the perception that you have a gustatory disorder when in fact you could have a problem with smell instead.
Taste Disorder Treatment
Once your doctor has isolated the cause of the sweetness, he may be able to treat it. Some people, especially those with respiratory infections, sinusitis, or allergies, regain their true sense of taste when these problems are resolved. You might even be one of the lucky few who are spontaneously able to taste properly again.
If your gustatory cells are irreparably damaged, there’s hope for you: scientists are investigating the fact that gustatory cells are the only sensory cells in the body that are regularly replaced. This may allow them to discover ways to replace damaged sensory cells.
If you have a constant sweet taste in your mouth, you should see your doctor, as gustatory disorders can also lead to loss of appetite, poor nutrition, and weakened immunity.