Taste Buds - Anatomy, Types, Features and Functions

Dhristi NEET 2022-24

Taste Buds Explanation by Vedantu

Taste buds are sensory organs that are located on our tongue and let us feel tastes that are sweet, salty, sour, and bitter.

Taste receptor cells, also known as gustatory cells, are found in taste buds. Taste receptors are present on the upper surface of the tongue, soft palate, upper esophagus, cheek, and epiglottis in small structures known as papillae. The five components of taste perception are salty, acidic, bitter, sweet, and umami and these mechanisms are involved in detecting them. These distinct tastes are often attributed to different regions of the tongue, but they can be identified by any part of the tongue. Sections of the food dissolved in saliva come into contact with the taste receptors through tiny openings in the tongue epithelium called taste pores. The taste receptor cells that constitute the taste buds are located on top of these. The seventh, ninth, and tenth cranial nerves carry information from taste receptor cells detected by clusters of various receptors and ion channels to the gustatory areas of the brain.

  • Taste buds are made of 2 excitable cell types and a glia-like cell; every kind of cell has different functions.

  • Basic taste features are identified by G protein-coupled type 1 and type 2 taste receptors, by other receptors and ion channels, and perhaps by transporters.

  • ATP is an afferent taste transmitter that is absorbed by taste bud cells using a non-vesicular release mechanism.

  • ATP, serotonin, and GABA intercede cell-cell corporations in the taste bud that may shape transmission to sensory afferent fibers.

  • Controversy continues about whether peripheral taste coding accompanies a labeled-line or combinatorial pattern.

  • Taste preferences and appetites appear to have a genetic element that is being revealed by molecular and population studies.

Anatomy of Taste Buds

Taste buds are found mainly in the papillae or tiny bumps on the tongue. They can also be found in other areas of the mouth, such as the palate and the throat. There are four different kinds of papillae:

  • Filiform: The most common, covering the hard surface of the tongue, and do not include taste buds

  • Fungiform: Found near the exterior of the tongue

  • Circumvallate: Found in the back of the tongue

  • Foliate: Found on the surfaces of the tongue

Taste buds form in utero and experts believe they are working by 10 to 13 weeks of gestation. Fetuses can taste foods in the motherly diet that cross through the amniotic fluid. Flavors of the maternal diet are also detected in breast milk.

Human Tongue Taste Buds

The human tongue has an average of 2,000–8,000 taste buds, suggesting hundreds of thousands of receptor cells. The number of taste buds, on the other hand, varies greatly. Some people have only a few individual taste buds per square centimeter on the tip of their tongue, whereas others have thousands; this variability leads to variations in taste sensations encountered by different people. Since each taste bud usually contains receptor cells that respond to different chemical stimuli—rather than the same chemical stimulus—taste sensations generated within an individual taste bud vary as well. As a result, different tastes (such as salty, sweet, sour, bitter, or umami) have different sensations not only inside a single taste bud but also across the tongue's surface. Since all species have the same basic needs in choosing food, the taste receptor cells of other animals can also be described in ways close to those of humans. Let’s see the structure of taste buds in the following image :

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How to Repair Damaged Tongue Buds?

When damaged taste buds are affected by an underlying medical condition, the underlying condition may be treated to restore the taste buds. Antibiotics can be used to treat bacterial infections, while rest at home can help with viral infections.

Treatment for more severe conditions, such as those that cause long-term nerve damage, does not always regain taste bud function. In the end, healing is determined by the severity of nerve damage and the body's ability to heal it. If your medication is causing you to lose your taste, your doctor can decide to modify or alter your medication to help you avoid this side effect.

What is the Function of Taste Buds?

Taste sensations are sent to the brain by taste receptor cells, which are found in taste buds. These cells recover rapidly and live for just eight to ten days. Many people keep asking how many taste buds are seen?

You can identify 5 human tongue taste buds:

  • Bitter: Bitter is considered to be the most sensitive if we compare it with other taste buds. Many bitter compounds are related to being toxic that we may perceive as bitter. These flavours are unpleasant, these substances are usually found in plants. Moreover, a small shot of bitterness may make the food better and interesting as well. For instance, beer has a hoppy taste that people find awesome. Plus, there are many things that require bitterness to be healthy. Metabolism is aided by antioxidants, and coffee and dark chocolates have many traits with their bitter properties. So, add some dark chocolate to the top of your favourite cake and make it fun.

  • Sweet: Sweet tongue is known as a nice ring. There are many people who have sweet teeth. Sweetness is usually associated with pleasurable taste as it signals the availability of sugar that is the prime energy source and desired by the human body. This is no wonder that sugar is a taste that is even liked by babies. Sweet is also used in combination as it goes well with all the basic tastes. Some salty dishes like roasted sprouts or vegetable dishes are also topped with sweetness to give them a next-level taste.


  • Salty: Salty is the most famous and liked by our mouth due to its sodium chloride receptor. This taste is an essential component of the human diet and it also boosts food flavour. In our daily limit, salty foods are the most craved. And, people who want to adjust their intake of salt in their daily regimen, can remain satisfied by adjusting it. In many sweet dishes, it works as an enhancer like we sprinkle some salt on our gingerbread cookies. 

  • Sour: Sourness is known as a taste that helps in detecting acidity. This taste bud works for finding hydrogen ions from the organic acids that are available in foods. In citrus foods, the mouth-puckering feeling is quite common for instance oranges and lemons. Leafy and tamarind are also common examples of this. The sour taste can be received from the foods that become sour due to fermentation like yoghurt, sauerkraut, the addition of vinegar, etc. There are many salad dressings that contain vinegar as the main ingredient and it is an ideal way for adding a sour taste. Lemon and orange flavours are also added with vinegar in cream-based toppings.


  • Umami (savory): Umami is called an appetitive taste that is sometimes also known as meaty and savoury. In recent times, this has been accepted as well as identified as a basic taste. Initially, in the 20th century, this taste bud was identified by a Kikunae (a Japanese chemist). Tomatoes, meat, and cheese are the well-known ingredients for this taste bud. This got an acceptance only after the year 1985.

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While most people see a difference between these kinds of tastes, not everyone tastes things in the same way. That’s because how taste buds recognize some molecules differs from person to person. 

Supertasters' tongues have extra papillae, which can make tastes overwhelming. Supertasters, as a result, prefer milder foods. Subtasters, on the other hand, have fewer papillae. They are less receptive to strong flavors and prefer foods with more pronounced flavors and heat.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is a Taste Pore?

Taste cells sample the atmosphere through the opening on each taste bud. Taste pores are the pores that collect the sense of taste from the taste buds. Microvilli (specialized hairlike structures) found on the surface of taste buds in minute openings called taste pores (indicated by arrows) detect dissolved chemicals ingested in food, causing receptor cells in the taste buds to activate and the sense of taste. Taste receptors are exposed to parts of the food that have been dissolved in saliva. The taste receptor cells that form the taste buds are located on top of these.

2. What are Taste Buds Made of?

Taste buds are made up of clusters of 50 to 150 columnar taste receptor cells that are packed together like bananas. The taste receptor cells in a bud are organized such that their tips form a small taste pore and microvilli from the taste cells spread through this pore. Taste buds include taste receptor cells, which are likewise named gustatory cells. The taste receptors are found around the tiny structures known as papillae found on the top surface of the tongue, soft palate, above esophagus, cheek, and epiglottis.

3. Is it really necessary for humans to own taste buds? 

This is said that taste buds have been specifically designed to keep humans alive. This is so as our tongue responds to those tastes that are spoiled or poisonous, so this process saves us from swallowing something that is not only good for our tongue but for our body as well. Salty and sweet tastes provide us information that the foods are really rich in terms of nutrients. Thus, this is why taste buds are crucial for humans to keep them alive.

4. Can taste buds get damaged due to some reason?

Yes, your taste buds may get damaged if they have been affected due to an underlying medical condition. However, the relaxing thing is that these taste buds can be restored again with the help of treatment. Most commonly, antibiotics are used for treating bacterial infections. Along with this, it is recommended to take ample rest at home so that your viral infection will leave your body slowly. In other more severe cases such as nerve damage, this process may become lengthier and take quite a long time to attain the recovery stage.

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