Your tongue is the main organ used for for tasting

The average tongue is about 10 centimetres long. But you can only see a part of it. Getty Images

The average tongue is about 10 centimetres long. But you can only see a part of it. Getty Images

Your tongue is attached to the bottom of your mouth. It is the main body organ of the sense of taste. The tongue is covered with senses called taste buds. There are from 3000 to 10 000 taste buds on your tongue. But you cannot see them. The bumps you can see on the tongue are called papillae (say puh-pill-ee). The taste bud sit on top of them. Tiny hairs on the taste buds send messages about the taste to the brain and the brain tell you what you are tasting.

The five tastes

When something touches the tongue you can taste it. The five tastes are sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami (say oo-mah-mee), which is savoury. These five tastes can be detected anywhere on the tongue. There are also taste buds in your cheeks!

Did you know?

The nose also help you to taste things by smelling them before you put them in your mouth. In fact, the nose does most of the work to help us taste things.

There are eight muscles that work the tongue to help us talk, swallow, taste, mix food and fight germs. And the tongue works while we sleep too. It pushes saliva (spit) into the throat while you are asleep. 

The muscles on the back of the tongue also helps humans to talk. Especially the sounds k and g (as in got)

How does the tongue fight germs?

The back part of your tongue has a part called the lingual tonsil (say: Lin-gwul Ton-sul). This part helps filter out harmful germs that could cause an infection in the body. The tongue also washes the teeth to help keep them clean.

Care of the tongue

  • Avoid really hot foods that can burn the tongue.  
  • Keep your tongue clean by brushing it gently at the same time as you brush you teeth.

Read about umami taste:

Watch a video about the tongue and how it helps us taste things