The human tongue contains about 10,000 tiny bumps (called papillae), and every bump has about 250 taste buds. Each taste bud has a pore that opens out to the surface of the tongue, which allows molecules going into the mouth to reach the receptor cells inside. Receptor cells live for only one to two weeks and then are replaced by new receptor cells. Taste buds detect the four basic flavors of salty, sweet, bitter, and sour, and work together with other taste buds on the roof of your mouth to give you the taste of your food.
But taste buds also need help from your nose. While you’re chewing, the food releases chemicals that immediately travel up into your nose, triggering your nose’s olfactory receptors. Your nose is at least 20,000 times more sensitive than your tongue and it can remember about 50,000 different scents! Smell cells work with your taste buds to create a rich taste experience. In fact, you may notice that if your nose is stuffed and you can’t smell your food you also can’t taste it very well!