Food is probably one of our favorite things at my dental office in Westfield (besides teeth of course!). We love to savor flavorful treats of all kinds on our tongues. Actually, speaking of tongues, our love for food and the flavors involved made us think about that often forgotten, yet important, part of our mouths.
Tongues are responsible for allowing us to taste all the wonderful mixes of flavors available to us. But one thing about the sense of taste has been a bit misleading.
Sour, Salty, Sweet, and Bitter
You may remember learning about something called the tongue map back in school. The tongue map illustrated and taught us that we taste different flavors on different parts of our tongues. Bitter on the back, sour on the sides near the back, salty on the sides closer to the front, and sweet on the tip. The truth? That’s just not the case.
What Do You Taste, Bud?
Tongues are full of small bumps that are often mistaken for our taste buds. In reality, the bumps found on the top of the tongue are called papillae. Taste buds are much, much smaller. So small that anywhere from 3-100 can fit inside one papilla! While many papillae are home to many taste buds, there are actually some that don’t have any. The papillae found in the middle section of the tongue (the filiform papillae), for example, don’t have taste buds while the papillae found on the outer rim (the fungiform papillae) can hold about 3-5 taste buds. That doesn’t sound like very many, so where do we actually taste flavors?
Party in the Back!
Stick out your tongue. Look in the back. The way, waaay, back. Back there is where the party’s at! Most of your taste buds live in the papillae (the foliate and circumvallate papillae) found on this area of the tongue, with each papillae hosting 100 or more buds! Party on!
Next time you indulge in your favorite snack and want to savor the flavor a bit longer, get the most of it by allowing it to rest near the back of the tongue. Just make sure if it’s a sugar-filled treat or acid-packed snack, you don’t let it linger too long. These yummy foods sure taste great, but if they’re exposed to the teeth for a long period of time, they may cause damage. But don’t worry, if any damage does occur, call my Westfield dental practice and we’ll get you back to eating all your favorite flavors right away.
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