The tongue plays a very important role in the body. Some may argue that the very best function is helping us to taste and enjoy our food! The tongue contains thousands of taste buds, also known as papillae, and include large specialized ones called circumvallate papillae. These large papillae, also known as vallate papillae, are located toward the very back of the tongue near the tonsils. All taste buds are found on the dorsum, or top surface, of the tongue and look like small raised protrusions or bumps.
More About Circumvallate Papillae
The shape, location and function of these taste buds make the circumvallate papillae unique. Firstly, they have a distinct v-shape and most adults have only seven to 12 of these papillae in their mouths – the least in number of other taste buds, says the National Center for Biotechnology Information. They also contain minor salivary glands that aid in digestion. Commonly, the taste buds on different parts of the tongue are thought to respond to certain foods such as sweet, savory and bitter, according to the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association. The vallate papillae were shown to identify bitter or bad tastes and since they are located at the very back of the tongue, contribute to the gag reflex. Additionally, they are very difficult to view and examine without sticking out the tongue completely and having a good light source. Often, patients may notice them by chance and seeing the difference in shape and size, seek the advice of their dentist or dental hygienist to rule out abnormalities.
Taste Disorders and Circumvallate Papillae
As mentioned, these particular papillae can often be mistaken for an abnormal condition of the mouth. Their appearance is often normal with no cause for concern. Most often they can become enlarged or inflamed if you have a virus or infection, but is not considered serious.
In some instances, enlarged vallate papillae can be an indication of a more serious condition and a visit to your dentist or doctor is recommended. Very often, the problem is viral in nature, but may sometimes be attributed to other conditions like acid reflux or oral cancer.
Less serious problems that affect the papillae and alter taste can be caused by a number of factors. They include age, side effects from prescription drugs, certain diseases and vitamin deficiencies. The most common loss of taste can be attributed to trauma, namely burning your tongue on hot food or beverages and should subside in about 10 days.
Circumvallate Papillae and Tongue Care
The circumvallate papillae and other taste buds embedded on our tongues need great care to help us to enjoy our food – one of the great pleasures of life! Don't smoke, practice good oral hygiene, and seek regular dental care. Brush twice daily with a toothbrush, like the Colgate 360° Advanced 4 Zone. It removes bacteria from the teeth, tongue, cheeks and gums with its advanced multi-action bristle design and innovative cheek and tongue cleaner design. Taking care of your tongue is paramount to a healthy mouth and good quality of life.