If you think back to perhaps fourth grade science, you may remember learning about the tongue map. The tongue map described which areas of the tongue tasted different flavors — bitter on the back, sour and salty on the sides, and sweet on the front. At my dental office in Mill Creek, we’d like to correct this early-taught lesson of mouth anatomy (sorry, fourth grade teachers!).
Where Are You, Bud?
Taste buds are often mistaken for another crucial piece of tongue anatomy — the papillae. When you stick out your tongue (go ahead, stick it out), you’ll see a bunch of tiny bumps on all areas of the tongue. These are not your taste buds, these are your papillae. Papillae come in several forms and actually house your taste buds which are much smaller. So if you have papillae all over your tongue, does that mean your taste buds are all over your tongue and you taste every flavor everywhere? Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Where’s Your Flavor?
Papillae comes in four main forms — the filiform, the fungiform, the foliate, and the circumvallate. Let’s start with the least exciting one, the filiform.
So you can see, using the tongue map is a great way to roughly explain how taste buds work, but we wanted to make sure all of the patients at my Mill Creek dental office knew the real source of the blissful taste of their favorite foods. So take a bite, let it linger on the back of your tongue, and enjoy!
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