Sensory Dysfunction | Overview


Why are smell and taste important?

Your senses of smell and taste let you fully enjoy the scents and flavors of foods and drinks. These senses also protect you from food poisoning and warn you of dangers such as fire, polluted air and poisonous chemicals.

Is there a difference between taste and flavor?

Yes. The basic tastes are salty, sweet, bitter and sour. Flavor involves both taste and smell. For example, because a person is able to smell a chocolate bar while eating it, the chocolate not only tastes sweet but also has the flavor of chocolate. The flavor of chocolate candy might not be as good if you couldn’t smell it and taste it at the same time.

What can happen if I have trouble with my sense of smell or taste?

If you can’t smell or taste your food, your appetite might decrease. You might use too much sugar and salt to try to make your food taste better. This can be a problem if you have diabetes or high blood pressure.


Smell and Taste Disorders: A Primary Care Approach by SM Bromley, M.D. (American Family Physician January 15, 2000,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 07/10
Created: 09/00