Question: My husband lost his sense of smell after an upper tooth extraction. What are the causes of loss of sense of smell and taste?
As you may know, the sense of smell is much more important than we often think. We use smell to detect spoiled food, smoke, gas and other dangerous stimuli. It is an important factor in taste- and in the enjoyment of our daily lives as well.
The smell fibers are one of the most primitive sensory fibers in terms of development. The smell organ is a series of small nerves that come from the brain and end in the roof of the nasal cavity. Most commonly, the sense of smell can be lost if air cannot get to the smell fibers- such as with nasal congestion from a cold, sinus infection or allergies. In these cases, once the nasal passages are clear, the sense of smell usually returns. Treatment is directed at the cause of the obstruction. There can be, however, damage to these nerve fibers. This occurs in general slowly as we age, but can come suddenly after trauma or infection as well. Treatment aimed at these causes of loss of sense of smell and taste is often less successful.
While taste fibers are separate from the sense of smell, the sense of smell has an important role in our appreciation of taste. They are usually not really damaged together.
It is not unusual for a person to develop a sinus infection after a dental infection, a failed upper root canal or after an extraction. The maxillary (cheek) sinus is quite close to these teeth- and often the tooth roots extend directly into the sinus. A dental infection in this area often can lead to a sinus infection that could interfere with the sense of smell. Resolution of the infection would be expected to bring about restoration of the sense of smell. In any case, I would ask that your husband be evaluated by an ear nose and throat doctor to find the cause and treatment for his particular case. We would be happy to see him here at the NY Sinus Center for this.