Correlation between bitter and sweet taste perception and self-reported oral hygiene habits and oral health – ADOHTA 2021

Correlation between bitter and sweet taste perception and self-reported oral hygiene habits and oral health

Miss Kiranjit Kaur1, Dr Dean  Sculley2, Dr Martin  Veysey3, Dr Mark  Lucock1, Dr Janet  Wallace4,5, Dr  Emma Beckett1,6,7

1School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Ourimbah, Australia, 2School of Biomedical Sciences & Pharmacy, Ourimbah, Australia, 3School of Medicine & Public Health, Ourimbah, Australia, 4School of Health Sciences, Ourimbah, Australia, 5School of Dentistry, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Sydney , Australia, 6Hunter Medical Research Institute, Newcastle, Australia, 7Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, Ourimbah, Newcastle

Oral health is essential for general health and well-being and influenced by numerous factors, including oral hygiene habits and dietary factors. Diet is influenced by variation in tasting threshold and taste perceptions. Genetic polymorphisms in bitter and sweet taste genes have been associated with dental caries. However, research remains restricted to specific polymorphisms, limited outcomes (dental caries) and age-groups (children). Furthermore, interactions between oral hygiene habits and taste perception have not been investigated. Therefore, a cross-sectional online survey was conducted to assess the correlations between bitter and sweet taste perceptions (liking and intensity of index food items), self-reported oral hygiene habits and oral health outcomes (n=518). Taste perceptions were assessed using the General Labelled Magnitude Scales (GLMS) to rate liking and intensity of the sweetness and bitterness of indicator foods. Statistical analyses were performed using Tukey HSD’s post hoc test and least-square means were reported. The correlations were adjusted for age, sex, income, education, smoking status and dietary index. Higher bitter and sweet intensity perceptions were associated with frequency of brushing, use of mouthwash, chewing gum and tongue cleaning. Sweet liking scores were only linked with reported frequency of mouthwash and floss used. Positive correlations were found between bitter liking scores and frequency of brushing, chewing gum, tongue cleaning, mouthwash and floss use, those who engaged in these behaviours more regularly scored lower on bitter liking scales. The number of dental caries occurrences and regular dry mouth were correlated with bitter and sweet intensity perception scores and mixed associations were found between bitter and sweet liking and oral health outcomes. Results suggest correlations between taste perceptions and oral hygiene habits and oral health outcomes. Future studies are needed to understand the causation and progression of oral health diseases or the development of novel therapeutics for oral health.


Dentist scientist, Kiranjit Kaur is a PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle. Her area of research includes taste genetics, oral hygiene, salivary microbiome, and oral health. She is an international student from India. She completed her bachelor’s degree in dental surgery from India. Then she came to Australia and completed a master’s degree in public health at the UoN. Along with these accomplishments, she is a proud member of a few organisations, including the Punjab Dental Council (PDC, India), the Australian Society for Medical Research (ASMR) and the Nutrition Society of Australia (NSA).