When people lose their sense of smell, they often find that they are not able to taste. However, it is usually just the sense of smell that is absent. To understand this, it is crucial to recognize the difference between true taste and smell.
- True Taste: The salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and savory experiences that we feel in our mouth when we eat. The tongue has receptors for these 5 tastes meaning that even without smell, we can experience these. Even with smell loss, people can typically tell the difference between salt and sugar.
- Smell: Occurs when we sniff (ortho-nasal olfaction) or chew food (retro-nasal olfaction). When we chew food, the molecules travel up the back of the throat and deliver a smell.
It is the combined effort of true taste (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and savory) and smell that create flavor. Flavor is what disappears during smell loss and because flavor is identified in the mouth, people wrongly conclude their taste is gone. Unless if a predisposed ailment in the taste buds are present, smell goes hand in hand with taste.