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The Impact of Oral Health on Taste Ability in Acutely Hospitalized Elderly
Published: Thursday, May 03, 2012
Author: Kirsten Solemdal et al.

by Kirsten Solemdal, Leiv Sandvik, Tiril Willumsen, Morten Mowe, Thomas Hummel


To investigate to what extent various oral health variables are associated with taste ability in acutely hospitalized elderly.


Impaired taste may contribute to weight loss in elderly. Many frail elderly have poor oral health characterized by caries, poor oral hygiene, and dry mouth. However, the possible influence of such factors on taste ability in acutely hospitalized elderly has not been investigated.

Materials and Methods

The study was cross-sectional. A total of 174 (55 men) acutely hospitalized elderly, coming from their own homes and with adequate cognitive function, were included. Dental status, decayed teeth, oral bacteria, oral hygiene, dry mouth and tongue changes were recorded. Growth of oral bacteria was assessed with CRT® Bacteria Kit. Taste ability was evaluated with 16 taste strips impregnated with sweet, sour, salty and bitter taste solutions in 4 concentrations each. Correct identification was given score 1, and maximum total taste score was 16.


Mean age was 84 yrs. (range 70–103 yrs.). Total taste score was significantly and markedly reduced in patients with decayed teeth, poor oral hygiene, high growth of oral bacteria and dry mouth. Sweet and salty taste were particularly impaired in patients with dry mouth. Sour taste was impaired in patients with high growth of oral bacteria.


This study shows that taste ability was reduced in acutely hospitalized elderly with caries activity, high growth of oral bacteria, poor oral hygiene, and dry mouth. Our findings indicate that good oral health is important for adequate gustatory function. Maintaining proper oral hygiene in hospitalized elderly should therefore get high priority among hospital staff.