All you need to know about taste buds

Why is it that some of us have a sweet tooth while the others like spicy food? Why do we enjoy pizza and loathe green veggies that our mothers forced us to eat? The reason – our taste buds. Our taste buds help us differentiate and recognise different tastes and flavours which assists in telling the difference between an ice cream and a burger. DentoXpert helps you understand how…

Taste buds are sensory organs that are present on our tongue and allow us to experience an assortment of tastes such as salty, sweet, bitter and sour. Take a look in the mirror and when you look closely, you’ll notice that the tongue has several bumps on it, called papillae. These bumps contain the taste buds. These taste buds are covered with minute hair called microvilli. They send signals to the brain regarding particular tastes which allow us to relish our food.

On an average, we have about 10,000 taste receptors that work by sending signals to the brain. In fact, there is evidence which suggests that no single region of our tongue carries taste signals to the brain, but, two or more nerves are responsible for handling the taste perception in our mouth. Chorda tympani found in the front and glossopharyngeal present at the back work together and assist our brain’s to register different flavors. Even if one of them gets damaged, you would lose all ability to taste anything sweet or bitter; however, that is an unlikely occurrence.

While our taste buds do all the hard work, our nose isn’t far behind. Our olfactory receptors located inside the topmost part of our nose contain cells which help in experiencing different smells. When we chew our food, certain chemicals are released which travel up our nose. These chemicals trigger our olfactory receptors to create true flavors that we relish!

Whenever we have a cold or allergy with a stuffy or a runny nose, our sense of smell gets distorted along with our taste buds. We are unable to derive pleasure from the food we consume as we aren’t able to experience any flavors. Similarly, try holding your nose while you eat and it will have the same effect! You will notice that the flavors are misleading until and unless you let go of your nose.

Final thoughts

While our tongue has different ways of experiencing different flavors, it is actually a myth that our tongue is divided into taste zones. For example, bitter can be experienced at the back of the tongue and sweet at the tip. Whether it is sweet, salty, sour or bitter, the flavors can be sensed by all parts of the tongue.

The full intensity of a flavor is produced only after all sensory profiles of the tongue are combined. Assuming that we have five basic tastes and over ten levels of intensity, we can say that 100,000 flavors can be produced and experienced, which is incredible! These tastes make our food appetizing and our life flavorful.

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