Taste Buds On Tongue

Taste Buds On Tongue
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Many readers are interested in the following topic: Taste Buds. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

Taste buds exist primarily in the small bumps on your tongue, called papillae. They also are present in other parts of the mouth, like the palate and throat. There are four types of papillae:

Anatomy of the Taste Buds

Kathi Valeii is a freelance writer covering the intersections of health, parenting, and social justice.

Updated on January 24, 2021

Benjamin F. Asher, MD, is a board-certified otolaryngologist. He has a private practice in New York City where he focuses on natural and integrative healing.

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Taste buds are a small organ located primarily on the tongue. The adult human tongue contains between 2,000 and 8,000 taste buds, each of which are made up of 50 to 150 taste receptor cells. Taste receptor cells are responsible for reporting the sense of taste to the brain.

It used to be believed that the tongue was divided like a map into sections responsible for tasting things that are salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. Scientists have more recently learned that taste buds on every part of the tongue are able to detect every kind of taste quality.

The most common taste disorders include phantom taste perception, a condition where taste is present even when there is nothing in the mouth; dysgeusia, a condition where a foul taste persists in the mouth; and burning mouth syndrome.



Taste buds exist primarily in the small bumps on your tongue, called papillae. They also are present in other parts of the mouth, like the palate and throat. There are four types of papillae:

  • Filiform: The most common, covering the tough surface of the tongue, and do not contain taste buds
  • Fungiform: Located near the front of the tongue
  • Circumvallate: Located near the back of the tongue
  • Foliate: Located on the sides of the tongue

Taste buds develop in utero and scientists believe they are functional by 10 to 13 weeks of gestation. Fetuses are able to taste foods in the maternal diet that pass through the amniotic fluid. Tastes of the maternal diet are also detected in breast milk.  


The taste receptor cells that make up taste buds are responsible for sending perceptions of taste to the brain. These cells regenerate quickly and have an average lifespan of only eight to 12 days.

Human brains are able to detect five basic tastes:

  • Bitter
  • Sweet
  • Salty
  • Sour
  • Umami (savory)

While most people notice a distinction between these categories of tastes, not everyone tastes things in the same way. That’s because of how taste buds detect certain molecules varies from person to person.

Supertasters have more papillae on their tongues, which can make flavors overwhelming. As a result, supertasters tend to prefer milder foods. Conversely, subtasters have fewer papillae. They aren’t as sensitive to strong flavors and tend to prefer more pronounced flavors and spicier foods.

Taste Buds Myth

It is a myth that taste buds for sweet, salty, bitter, and sour things exist on different parts of the tongue. Current research has found that no regional taste differences exist on the tongue. In fact, scientists now understand that all taste buds can detect sweet, salty, sour, and bitter tastes no matter their location.

Associated Conditions

Taste disorders affect more than 200,000 people in the U.S. each year. Scientists believe that as many as 15% of adults may have trouble with taste or smell.   Many do not seek treatment.

Phantom taste perception, called dysgeusia, is the most common taste disorder. It is characterized by a lingering taste, often bitter or sour, even when there is nothing in your mouth.

Hypogeusia is when a person has a reduced ability to taste things. A complete lack of ability to taste anything is called ageusia. True taste loss is rare. Often an inability to taste is related to a loss of smell due to congestion.

Burning mouth syndrome is a painful condition, where a person experiences a burning sensation in the mouth. It can sometimes last for months. It is most common in older adults.

Taste disorders are most often the result of illness or injury. More rarely, people are born with them. Ear infections, upper respiratory illnesses, radiation treatment for cancer, certain medications, surgeries to the ear, nose, and throat, and dental problems can all contribute to taste disorders.  

Loss of taste and smell is one of the more reliable indicators of COVID-19. Scientists believe that infection of certain cells that provide support to olfactory neurons may be responsible for anosmia (loss of smell).  

People frequently burn their tongues on hot foods and beverages. Injuries to the tongue also commonly occur. You may bite your tongue as a result of another trauma or while eating. You might also sustain an injury to your tongue from orthodontia or mouth jewelry.

A swollen tongue is known as glossitis. When your tongue becomes inflamed, it may also affect your taste buds and cause an unusual taste in your mouth. Glossitis can happen as a result of an allergic reaction, injury, infection, or side effects of medication.

Any swelling in the mouth can indicate an allergic reaction, so you should pay close attention to tongue swelling and seek medical attention if it continues to get worse.


Taste disorders are diagnosed by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) healthcare provider. Symptoms of taste disorders may include things like loss of taste or smell, or tastes that were formerly pleasant become suddenly offensive.

Along with a physical exam and taking your medical history, your healthcare provider will test your smell and taste perception. This may involve measuring the lowest strength of a chemical that you can recognize, comparing taste and smell of different chemicals, and “scratch and sniff” tests.

Treatment for taste disorders may involve adjusting medication you are on if it is believed to be interfering with your sense of taste or smell, identifying and correcting an underlying medical condition, identifying and removing obstructions in your mouth that may be causing the problem, and smoking cessation.

Taste disorders can affect your ability to maintain an adequate diet because when foods don’t taste good, you may be less inclined to eat as often or as balanced as you otherwise would. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider if you notice a loss or change in your sense of taste or smell.

Treatment for burning mouth syndrome includes pain management. Certain antidepressants and benzodiazepines have also been shown to help.

Most often at-home treatment for minor burns of the tongue is sufficient. Sipping cool water can help ease the pain and stop the burn from continuing to damage your tissue. If you suffer a chemical burn, you should run water over your tongue and not swallow and contact poison control or 911 right away.

If a swollen tongue is believed to be allergies, especially if it is believed to be a symptom of anaphylaxis, treatment will involve reducing the swelling. Your healthcare provider will also work with you to identify the trigger so it is less likely to happen in the future.

At-home treatment for minor swelling includes rising with salt water, sucking on ice to reduce swelling, and avoiding foods that may irritate your tongue, like acidic and salty foods.

Most tongue injuries are minor and heal on their own. If they are more severe, they may require stitches and/or antibiotics. At-home treatment involves eating soft foods, sucking on ice or popsicles, and rinsing with warm salt water.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Taste disorders.
  2. Barlow L, Klein O. Chapter Twelve – Developing and regenerating a sense of taste. In: Current Topics in Developmental Biology. 2015;111:401-419. doi:10.1016/bs.ctdb.2014.11.012.
  3. Hutchins M. Integrative oral science – chemical sensory system functions. University of Texas.
  4. Brann D, Tsukahara T, Weinreb C et al. Non-neuronal expression of SARS-CoV-2 entry genes in the olfactory system suggests mechanisms underlying COVID-19-associated anosmia. Sci Adv. 2020;6(31):eabc5801. doi:10.1126/sciadv.abc5801
  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Smell and taste disorders.

By Kathi Valeii
As a freelance writer, Kathi has experience writing both reported features and essays for national publications on the topics of healthcare, advocacy, and education. The bulk of her work centers on parenting, education, health, and social justice.

Taste Buds

Taste buds are cells on your tongue that allow you to perceive tastes, including sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami. Taste buds regenerate approximately every 10 days, which means injured taste buds usually repair on their own.

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Location of the papillae containing taste buds and a list of the tastes your taste buds can detect.

What are taste buds?

Taste buds are tiny sensory organs that allow you to experience taste. They’re located inside the tiny bumps covering your tongue called papillae. Taste buds let you know what you’re eating and drinking and whether it tastes “good” or “bad.” This information makes eating pleasurable, which helps keep your body nourished. Your taste buds also alert you when something isn’t safe to consume, like spoiled milk or rotten meat.

What tastes can taste buds detect?

Taste buds detect five basic tastes, including:

  1. Sweet: Sweet foods mostly contain some form of sugar (sucrose, glucose, fructose and lactose). They include foods like honey, fruit and ice cream.
  2. Salty: Salty foods contain table salt (sodium chloride) or mineral salts, like magnesium or potassium. Think of foods like pretzels, chips and movie theater popcorn.
  3. Bitter: Bitter foods may contain ingredients like caffeine or compounds from plants, among others. Bitter is a complex taste regarding whether your taste buds recognize it as “good” or “bad.” For example, some people like bitter foods, like coffee and dark chocolate, while others don’t.
  4. Sour: Sour foods, like citrus fruits and vinegar, often contain some form of acid (acetic acid, citric acid, lactic acid).
  5. Umami: Umami is a savory, rich or meaty flavor. Many foods that your taste buds register as umami contain a substance called glutamate. Umami foods include tomatoes, asparagus, fish, mushrooms and soy.

Your taste buds experience these tastes in various combinations, making your experience of food and drink all the more complex. For example, taste buds may register a food as mostly sweet but also salty and umami. Or, a drink may taste mostly bitter but also sweet.


What do taste buds do?

Taste buds work with the olfactory receptors in your nose to allow you to experience flavor. When you chew food, your teeth and the saliva in your mouth work together to break it down. This breakdown releases chemicals from the food that flow to your taste buds. These chemical signals also travel up your nasal passages to receptors in your nose. Together, these signals from your nose and mouth allow you to experience flavor. Think of, for instance, how holding your nose doesn’t prevent you from tasting something, but it can change the flavor or dampen its intensity.

Other cells in your mouth and throat contain receptors that register how hot or cold a food or drink is. “Hot” includes temperature and spice. “Cold” includes temperature and certain flavor sensations, like mint or eucalyptus.

Multiple sensitive cells work together to shape your experience of eating and drinking.


How many taste buds do humans have?

The average adult has anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 taste buds. We lose taste buds as we age, which means that children have more taste buds than adults. Sizes and numbers of taste buds vary from person to person.

These differences mean that, although everyone detects the same five tastes, perceptions and experiences of these tastes vary.

How big is a taste bud?

Taste buds come in different sizes. On average, they have a diameter of about one-thirtieth of a millimeter and a length of one-sixteenth of a millimeter.

Where are taste buds located?

Taste buds primarily cover your tongue. To a lesser extent, you also have taste buds on the roof of your mouth and in your throat. The taste buds on your tongue are housed inside visible bumps called papillae. There are three types of papillae that contain taste buds:

  • Fungiform: Located on the sides and tip of your tongue. They contain approximately 1,600 taste buds.
  • Circumvallate: Located on the back of your tongue. They contain approximately 250 taste buds.
  • Foliate: Located on the back portion of your tongue, on each side. There are about 20 of these papillae, and they contain several hundred taste buds each.

It’s a common misconception that your tongue contains taste zones, or specific regions devoted to just one taste. Instead, taste buds that detect sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami are scattered throughout your tongue. Some parts of your tongue are a bit more sensitive to certain tastes.

For example, taste buds on the back of your tongue are especially sensitive to bitter tastes. This is likely an evolutionary feature. Toxic substances often contain compounds your taste buds register as bitter and unpleasant. Identifying something as unpleasant (and potentially hazardous) before you swallow can save your life.

What do taste buds look like?

Imagine a collection of cells arranged like a peeled orange or rosebud. At the top of the rosebud, a slight opening called a taste pore allows food and drinks to come into contact with the cells inside that detect taste.

What is the structure of a taste bud?

A taste bud is a collection of cells grouped inside the bumps on your tongue called papillae. A taste bud includes:

  • Taste receptor cells: Each taste bud has between 50 to 150 taste receptor cells. These cells contain receptors that extend upward inside the taste pore. These extensions are taste hairs called microvilli. The microvilli come into contact with the chemicals in the food and drink you consume. Taste receptor cells connect to nerves that transmit taste signals to your brain. Your brain registers the chemical that came into contact with the receptor as sweet, salty, etc.
  • Basal cells: These cells are stem cells that eventually become taste receptor cells. Your body replaces taste receptor cells approximately every 10 days.
  • Supporting cells (sustentacular cells): These cells are scattered throughout your taste buds alongside taste receptor cells. Although they’re in your taste buds, they can’t detect taste.

How often do taste buds change?

Basal cells develop into new taste receptor cells every week or two (10 days on average). Our taste buds decrease as we age, which means that your perception of taste changes at different stages of life. The foods you love as an adult may differ from those you love as a child. Similarly, taste perception changes as you transition through adulthood.

Conditions and Disorders

What common conditions and disorders affect your taste buds?

A group of conditions called taste disorders changes your sense of taste. They include:

  • Ageusia: Complete loss of taste.
  • Dysgeusia: Distorted sense of taste.
  • Hypergeusia: Increased sense of taste.
  • Hypogeusia: Reduced sense of taste.
  • Phantom taste disorder: Unpleasant taste that lingers even when there’s nothing in your mouth.

In addition, any of the following can affect your taste buds, causing food to taste differently:

  • Infections in your mouth or throat, including gingivitis.
  • Inflammation in your mouth.
  • A deficiency of vitamin B12 or zinc.
  • Metabolic disorders, including diabetes or hypothyroidism.
  • Neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.
  • Nerve damage.
  • GERD (chronic acid reflux).
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption.
  • Certain medications, including chemotherapy.
  • Dry mouth.
  • A burned tongue.
  • A swollen taste bud.


How can I keep my taste buds healthy?

The good news is that your taste buds repair and regenerate regularly. Injured taste buds usually heal on their own. Still, repeated damage — from frequent infections and smoking — can prevent your taste buds from healing and impact your sense of taste.

To prevent injuring a taste bud:

  • Don’t use tobacco products.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Take good care of your teeth, gums and tongue (oral hygiene).
  • Allow foods to cool before eating them.
  • Don’t put anything frozen directly onto your tongue.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Taste buds are tiny sensory organs with a huge job. Along with sensors in your nose, they allow you to experience flavor. If you’ve injured a taste bud, chances are it’ll repair in a week or two so you can enjoy food again. In the meantime, prevent injury by allowing foods and drinks to cool before eating or drinking. Avoid using tobacco products, which can cause long-term damage to your taste buds.