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Does Rhinoplasty Affect Your Sense Of Smell?

One of the most common questions that patients have about rhinoplasty surgery is whether it will affect their sense of smell. The ability to smell is a complex and clever process, so before we answer this question, let’s explore exactly how this important sense works.


How do we smell things?

Our sense of smell, much like our sense of taste, is part of our chemosensory system. It is a very direct sense in that the molecules from the thing creating the odor actually have to make it inside of your nose and up to a patch of special neuron receptors which are located at the very top of the inside of your nasal passages. These neurons have hair-like projections known as cilia, and the odor molecules bind to the cilia and trigger the neuron, allowing you to register a particular smell. Amazingly, on average, a human can distinguish more than 10,000 different smells.

Will my Sense of Smell be Affected after my Rhinoplasty Procedure?

The short answer is yes, your ability to smell or the smells that you detect may be affected after your procedure, BUT this side effect of rhinoplasty is usually temporary. The reason that your sense of smell is likely to be affected is primarily because airflow to the nose will be restricted as a result of post-operative swelling inside the nasal cavity.

This means that the scent molecules will not be able to make their way up to the receptors at the top of the inside of your nose. It is also normal for your sense of taste to be diminished, just as it would be if you had a cold and found that your nose is blocked.

How long will it take for my Sense of Smell to Return?

Post-rhinoplasty swelling can last a very long time. However, once the initial swelling inside the cavity subsides, your sense of smell and ability to taste properly will start to return. Most patients find that this takes somewhere between 3 to 6 weeks after their rhinoplasty surgery. Your smell and taste perceptions may also continue to improve, possibly to the point than they are better than they were before, over the following months while the remaining swelling dissipates.

Is there any chance I will lose my Sense of Smell Permanently?

The risk of your sense of smell becoming permanently lost is extremely small and cases are very rare.

Is there anything I can do to improve the Rate at which my Sense of Smell Returns?

The best thing you can do to help restore your sense of smell is to follow the post-operative instructions given to you by our surgeon. In doing so, you will be doing everything possible to ensure a swift and complication-free recovery. Using ice packs on your face in the days after your rhinoplasty may speed up the rate at which the swelling goes down, but you should contact us and consult with our surgeon before using this type of additional therapy.