Updated: 1/21/2020

You probably don’t think very much about taste, but we bet you would if your taste buds stopped working. Without taste buds, you wouldn’t be able to taste the boldness of your coffee in the morning!

So what should you know about your taste buds?

1. What Is a Taste Bud?

It may not be what you think. Most people think of taste buds as the small bumps on their tongues. What they don’t know is that those bumps are not taste buds – they are, in fact, papillae. It’s inside those papillae where the taste buds are.

Because of that, the buds themselves are not visible. Each bud has microscopic hairs that allow it to send sensory messages to the brain regarding taste.

2. Meet the Taste Bud’s Best Friend: The Nose

While taste buds have the ability to sense taste, the strength of a flavor can be attributed to the nose. Have you ever tried to eat something when your nose was stuffy? Usually, the flavors in the food seem subdued. That is because our noses have something called olfactory receptors. These receptors contain cells that help you smell – and taste.

The food you eat releases chemicals when you chew. Those chemicals reach the olfactory receptors, which then send messages to the brain about the taste. Similarly, when you smell food, those receptors help the brain recognize what you’re about to eat. It’s been said that without the receptors, you wouldn’t be able to tell much difference between an onion and an apple.

Why are the olfactory receptors so important? While everyone has preferences on the things they eat, the receptor’s job is to alert your brain to any potential danger in food. That’s one reason why babies repel from vegetables – they’re used to natural sugars and haven’t yet identified that vegetables are safe food.

3. Lifespan of a Taste Bud

Taste Bud

Photo by
Alessio Michelini / CC-BY-NC-ND

On average, every person has approximately 10,000 taste buds. Each bud, however, gets replaced every 10 days to two weeks. Because of this, you can taste things fairly well throughout your life. As a person ages, their taste buds don’t continue to regenerate as often. As a person ages, they reach a point where they only have about 5,000 working taste buds, hindering their ability to fully taste.

4. Teaching Your Kids About Taste Buds

Most of us learned in grade school that there are four main tastes: salty, sour, bitter and sweet. To help your child learn about these tastes, try a little taste test! Take four different foods that match one of the tastes and have them blindfolded to guess which taste category that food fits in.

Here are some suggestions of foods to test:

  • Salty – Pretzels, potato chips, saltines
  • Sour – Lemons/limes, dill pickles
  • Bitter – Baking chocolate, club soda
  • Sweet – Frosting, sugar cubes, peppermint

To get even more creative, you can try to trick them by giving them a candy that’s both sour and sweet! For more ideas to help children learn about the tongue and taste buds, check out this webpage!

5. In Conclusion

Taste buds are truly amazing things to help you sense. It’s important to remember to take care of your taste buds by eating right and refusing to smoke. Next time you eat something, remember those little buds that allow you to enjoy the food you eat!