Here’s Why Toothpaste and Orange Juice Don’t Mix
Food is pretty great. It fuels our bodies, tastes delicious, and gets our creative juices flowing as we try out new and exciting flavor combinations. The taste of certain foods can even bring back memories from a favorite childhood dish or beloved family recipe. But have you ever stopped to consider how our sense of taste even works?
We all have several thousand taste buds in our mouths, but the number varies from person to person. The average range is between 2000 and 10,000. And taste buds are not just on your tongue; they can be found in the roof and walls of your mouth, throat, and esophagus.
Taste buds are not visible to the human eye. Those little pink and white bumps you do see on your tongue are actually called papillae, hair-like projections that taste buds rest atop. Each papillae has an average of six taste buds buried inside.
The five different tastes that we can detect – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami (savory) – can be sensed on all parts of the tongue. The sides of the tongue are more sensitive overall than the middle, and the back of our tongue is more sensitive to bitter tastes.
Have you ever drank orange juice right after brushing your teeth, only to have it taste more like unsweetened lemon juice? Taste buds, it turns out, are sensitive enough that certain compounds in foods and medicines can alter our ability to perceive one of the five common tastes. The foaming agent in most toothpaste seems to temporarily suppress sweetness receptors.
Speaking of sweetness, a study by Cornell University food scientists found that the environment you are eating in can affect how you taste sweet things. The study discovered that a loud, noisy environment, such as when you’re traveling on an airplane, can suppress the sweet receptors and enhance umami receptors.
Overall oral health is very important in tasting our food. In patients with decayed teeth, poor oral hygiene, or high growth of oral bacteria, studies have shown that their taste is significantly worse than someone with a clean, healthy mouth.
Regular visits to a dentist can help ensure that you are keeping your taste buds working to their fullest potential. With so much delicious food available these days, it can certainly be said that trips to your local dental office are “in good taste!”