August 15, 2013

The Science of Taste

We taste things when molecules released by the chewing or the digestion of food stimulate sensory cells in the mouth and throat.  These cells then send information through taste nerves to the brain, which identifies the specific taste.

Taste Buds

While taste buds exist on the palate and along the lining of the throat, by far the greatest percentage of taste buds are on the tongue.  The tongue can have as many as 10,000 taste buds.  The basic taste sensations are sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami (savory).  These sensations combine with other oral sensations--texture, temperature, spiciness and aroma--to produce "flavor."  Aromas are released during chewing and are identified by our sense of smell.  For this reason, a diminished sense of smell can make the taste of foods seem more bland.

Impaired Taste

For those people who, due to heart disease, diabetes, stroke or other illnesses, have to adhere to a specific dietary regimen, impaired taste is a serious risk factor.  Impaired taste can lead to changed eating habits--too much or too little--or cause an increased use of sugar or salt to make their food taste better.
If you feel you have problems with taste, ask your doctor to examine your mouth and your nose, and check you for disease entities.  In addition, your doctor may help you determine whether any taste alterations are caused by medications you are taking.

Robert G. Tupac, DDS, FACP, Inc., Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics (661) 325-1275 | 5060 California Ave., #170, Bakersfield, CA 93309

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