Taste buds play the most important role in enjoying many flavors of food. The taste buds can identify four basic types of tastes namely sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. The salty and sweet taste buds are situated at the front part of tongue, the sour taste buds are located on the sides of tongue and the bitter taste buds are situated at the very back of tongue. Apart from the 4 or 5 tastes ( sweet, sour, bitter and umami), spoiled food which is an important protection for body, hot and cold can also be sensed. The sense of taste is also known as gustation.
Facts about taste buds:
- In general, women have more taste buds than men. Although women are born with more number of taste buds, they start losing taste buds at early age than men.
- A born baby has 10,000 taste buds on tongue, on the sides and roof of mouth. As the person become older, taste buds on the sides of mouth and the roof of mouth are vanished. When a person become even older, the remaining taste buds on tongue become very less sensitive and the food can’t be tasted.
- Sense of taste is different in every person. Some can taste more precisely (super tasters) than others. Super tasters have twice the number of taste buds than others. Asians have more number of super tasters.
Taste disorder can have a negative impact on a person’s health and also on quality of life. Nearly 200,000 people visit a doctor every year for issues with their chemical senses like taste and smell.
Causes of taste disorders:
Some people can have taste disorders by birth, but most of disorders are developed after an injury or illness. Causes of taste problems are:
- Infections in upper respiratory and middle ear parts.
- Radiation therapy performed for cancers of the head and neck.
- Vulnerability to certain chemicals like insecticides and some medications such as few common antibiotics and antihistamines.
- Injury to head.
- When some surgeries are done to the ear, nose, and throat like extraction of third molar, wisdom tooth, and middle ear surgery.
- · If there is poor oral hygiene and dental complications.
Negative effects of taste disorders:
Few negative effects of taste disorders on health are:
- Loss of taste can lead to serious health problems. A deformed sense of taste can be a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other health disorders, which requires taking a specific diet.
- When taste is destroyed, a person may modify his or her eating habits. Some people may eat very little and eventually lose weight, while others may eat heavily and gain weight.
- Loss of taste makes a person to eat too much sugar or salt in order to make food taste better. This becomes a problem to people with medical conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure. In extreme cases, loss of taste can cause depression.
- Loss of taste and smell can also be an indication of particular unhealthy diseases of the nervous system like Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.
Sometimes, a person can recover his or her sense of taste automatically. Good oral hygiene is important to regain and maintain proper functioning of sense of taste.
Tips for improving sense of taste:
- Mild or very mild cleaning of the tongue improves the ability to taste.
- Tobacco destroys the ability of taste buds to recognize most taste. Hence, smoking cigarettes should be avoided.
- Some studies recommend that adding different varieties of spices to food will help in improving sense of taste.
- Some medicines like anti-depressants, actually helps in improving sense of taste. Where as others can lessen the sense of taste.
- Most of the taste comes from smell. So, avoid foods and medicines that make taste buds blocked. Dairy products like milk, cheese, eggs can lead to congestion in many people, like allergic reactions.