How Exactly Do Our Taste Buds Work?
Our taste buds are contained in the mucous membrane of the epiglottis at the base of the tongue, of the tip, sides and root of the tongue and of the soft palate in the roof of the mouth. They are shaped rather like barrels with an outer covering of flattened cells.
These enclose a bundle of spindle-shaped cells which end in thin, hair-like threads and are joined at the base with the nerves of taste. The taste buds transmit taste to the nerves which in turn send the message to the brain. Tastes can be divided into four groups: sour, salt, bitter and sweet. To these classifications are sometimes added metallic and alkaline tastes.
In most cases, the flavor depends upon smell almost as much as taste. The taste buds seem to be in special groups designed to recognize different tastes; for the tastes are not equally easy to arouse in all parts of the mouth. Sweet things are tasted better at the tip of the tongue, and bitter things at the back.
The average person has about 10,000 taste buds and they’re replaced every 2 weeks or so. But as a person ages, some of those taste cells don’t get replaced. An older person may only have 5,000 working taste buds. That’s why certain foods may taste stronger to you than they do to adults. Smoking also can reduce the number of taste buds a person has.