Taste buds help us perceive – you guessed it – taste. On average, humans have around 10,000 taste buds, found on the tongue, palette, inner cheek, and throat. We have the most taste buds during early childhood, and the amount declines as we age. There are five different categories of taste detected by our taste buds: sweet, salty, acidic, bitter, and umami or savoriness. After we take a bite, chemicals present in the food are quickly dissolved by our saliva and then spread around our mouth. Known as tastants, these dissolved chemicals enter the pores of our taste buds where they stimulate taste receptor cells that communicate with sensory neurons in the taste buds. These signals are then sent to the brain, where the sense of taste is interpreted. The process is rather fascinating.
So what does all this have to do with dentistry?
While we’re primarily concerned with your teeth and gums at Rolling Ridge Dentistry, we also care about and examine the rest of your mouth during routine checkups. Some dental conditions can inhibit taste. For example, if you have persistent dry mouth or regularly experience abnormally unpleasant tastes in your mouth, contact us to ask if you should make an appointment to see Dr. Thomas. We want you to be able to fully enjoy your food! Another reason taste buds are relevant and interesting to us is how they can influence your food choices, which inevitably affect your teeth and oral health.
“Sweet tooth” is a real thing.
Children are more likely to be fussy eaters, but they commonly grow out of it; however, some adults remain picky from childhood. What’s the deal? When our personal tastes are forming, environment and experience are big factors. Research has found that our genes also play a substantial role, predisposing some people to pickiness and others to having a “sweet tooth,” preference for salty snacks, or aversion to bitter tastes. Age and experience can come to outweigh genetic predisposition, which might answer your question about why you hated mustard as a child but don’t mind it so much now. Some tendencies and preferences are really strong, though, so if you know you’ve always had a special place in your heart (and stomach) for cookies, brownies, or candy, just remember that moderation is best for a healthy mouth and body.
The same goes for salty snacks and acidic beverages. Use good judgment, exercise moderation, and do your best to eat a rainbow of foods, particularly of vegetables and fruits. No matter what you eat, practice good oral hygiene at the beginning and end of the day, and between meals if possible. Keeping your teeth, mouth, and body healthy for years to come will allow you to enjoy many years of delicious-tasting food.