Trick Your Taste Buds

Have you ever wondered why certain foods taste sweet, sour, salty, or bitter? The taste map of the tongue has been a fascinating topic of study for scientists, and understanding how our taste buds perceive flavors can be a journey. Let’s explore the science behind our tongue’s unique map!

The Basics of Taste:

Before we dive into the taste map, let’s review the basic tastes we experience:

  • Bitter
  • Sweet
  • Salty
  • Sour
  • Umami (savory)

While most people notice a distinction between these categories of tastes, not everyone tastes things in the same way. That’s because of how taste buds detect certain molecules varies from person to person. 

Debunking the “Taste Zones” Myth:

You may have heard about the idea of the tongue having different “zones” for each taste. However, scientific research has debunked this myth. Taste buds are scattered across the entire tongue, and each taste bud can detect all five basic tastes. The regions of the tongue may have slightly different sensitivities to different tastes, but there are no exclusive zones for specific flavors.

The Role of Taste Buds:

Taste buds play a crucial role in how we perceive flavors. Taste buds contain taste receptor cells, that can detect the chemicals in the foods we eat. So, when we consume something, molecules from the food bind to these receptors, triggering signals to the brain, which interprets the taste. Fun fact – Taste buds have a lifespan of about 10-14 days, new ones are constantly replacing the old ones!

Taste and the Brain:

The journey of taste doesn’t end with the tongue; it’s just the beginning. Once taste receptors on the tongue are activated, signals are sent to the brain’s gustatory cortex. Here, the brain processes and interprets the taste information, triggering emotional and physiological responses to the flavors we experience.

Taste and Genetics:

Each person’s taste preferences can be influenced by their genetic makeup, making certain tastes more appealing or less appealing. Some individuals might be more sensitive to bitter tastes, while others may have a heightened preference for sweet flavors. Check out this fun at-home experiment to test how your genetics might affect your taste.

Taste Bud Map Experiment:

  1. Draw the outline of a giant tongue on a piece of white paper with a red pencil. Set the paper aside.
  2. Set up four plastic cups, each on top of a piece of paper. Pour a little lemon juice (sour) into one cup, and a little tonic water (bitter) into another. Mix up sugar water (sweet) and salt water (salty) for the last two cups. Label each piece of paper with the name of the liquid in the cup—not with the taste.
  3. Using toothpicks, dip them in one of the cups. Place the stick on the tip of the tongue. Do you taste anything? What does it taste like?
  4. Dip again and repeat on the sides, flat surface, and back of the tongue. If experimenting with young ones, have them recognize the taste and where on their tongue the taste is the strongest, and then have them write the name of the taste—not the liquid—in the corresponding space on the drawing.
  5. Rinse mouth with some water and repeat this process with the rest of the liquids.
  6. Note: Help them fill in the “tongue map,” by writing in all the tastes. If they want to draw taste buds and color in the tongue, have them do that, too.

Remembers, our tongues play a vital role in our daily lives, from savoring delicious flavors to aiding in speech and communication. Taking care of our oral health, including our tongues, is crucial for overall well-being. Schedule an appointment with your NOAH provider today to embark on the path to better tongue health!

Get a Sports Physical for School

The beginning of the school year means new opportunities. If your child is starting a sport for the first time, changing sports, or deciding to try a new physical activity outside of class, then it’s time for them to have a sports physical so a medical professional can make sure they are healthy enough to play their new sport or activity safely.

What is a sports physical?

  • Screening for safe and healthy participation in sports and activities.
  • Checking that your child’s body is ready for the physical demands of the activity.

Does my child need a sports physical?

  • Yes. In Arizona it is state law that a student gets a sports physical if they are playing a team or club sport at school.
  • And where it isn’t required, it is highly recommended because almost all kids are active in some way! This exam looks at the physical and mental demands of their sport or activity and can address any concerns related to their health.
  • To make life easier and to have less appointments, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends scheduling a sports physical with your child’s next routine well-child visit.

What happens during the appointment?

  • Bring your child’s completed Pre-Participation Physical Evaluation form with you. Write down any important medical information like past surgeries, injuries, or illnesses, and any family history of heart disease should be reviewed. Write down any questions you may have to discuss with the doctor.
  • At the appointment, the doctor will check your child’s:
    • Vitals: height, weight, pulse, and blood pressure
    • Eyes: if your child may need corrective lenses or a new prescription
    • Medical history
    • Fitness: heart, lungs, abdomen, joints, flexibility, strength, and reflexes             
  • This is also a good time to talk with your child’s doctor about any concerns for your child’s new or ongoing activity or sport, such as:
    • Concussions
    • Special needs or disabilities       
  • Your NOAH provider may also request lab work for your child or refer them to a specialist for further evaluation. If needed, your NOAH Care Team will help set up the next steps for this, and most children are able to play after this extra clearance.

Safe and healthy participation in sports and physical activities is the goal, so get your child’s physical scheduled with your NOAH provider and enjoy watching them play and have fun.

Charcoal Toothpaste: Is it Safe and Does it Work?

By Mina Youssef, RDH | Dental Hygienist

Is Charcoal Dangerous for My Teeth?

Charcoal is known to be a very abrasive substance. Charcoal is very coarse and gritty, which in turn helps to remove surface stains and plaque from your teeth. Also, charcoal is so harsh that it also wears away the top layer of the tooth called enamel, leaving your tooth weak and susceptible to sensitivity and prone to cavities.

Does Charcoal Actually Whiten Your Teeth?

Activated charcoal is incredibly porous, meaning that it’s highly effective at absorbing bacteria, oil, and dirt. In addition, charcoal is sometimes used in medical settings to remove dangerous toxins. However, it may not actually be effective at whitening your teeth. Truth is, most claims about charcoal toothpaste are unproven.

Is Charcoal Toothpaste a Safe Choice for Your Teeth?

While charcoal-based toothpastes may market themselves as being effective, using abrasive toothpaste too frequently could eventually lead to permanent yellowing of the teeth. Another disadvantage about charcoal toothpaste is that most don’t have fluoride in them, an essential ingredient in preventing cavities.

Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe for Kids/Young Teens?

Dentists do not recommend using charcoal toothpaste especially in kids and young teens. The abrasiveness of the charcoal could affect developing teeth and hinder growth.

Schedule an appointment with a NOAH dental provider here for more teeth healthy tips!

Does my Toothpaste Need to Include Fluoride?

By Jane Roots, RDH | Dental Hygienist

Yes! Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay.

According to the ADA, Fluoride has been considered safe, effective, and necessary in the prevention of tooth decay since 1950. By strengthening and slowing down the decay process, fluoride limits the ability for plaque and bacteria to break down the enamel of teeth. Fluoride in toothpaste is good, the medical and dental community recommend that you brush your teeth twice a day with a toothpaste that has Fluoride.

The center for disease control (CDC) and dental professionals concludes that “all persons should receive frequent exposure to small amounts of Fluoride,” Fluoride exposure can come from drinking water and toothpaste. Fluoride is beneficial in two ways. First is enamel remineralization, which means when fluoride is absorbed by the enamel on teeth, it attracts minerals to your teeth helping to keep them hard. Secondly, Fluoride helps by protecting your teeth during the demineralization process.

Fluoride never sleeps, it begins to strengthen your teeth enamel even before it breaks through the gums and continues working on an ongoing basis. Whenever you brush with a fluoride tooth paste or consume foods or beverages that contain fluoride, it strengthens weak spots in your enamel and help protect teeth from acid attack. Fluoride equals stronger enamel, less cavities, and a happier mouth!

Schedule a visit with your NOAH dental provider today!

X-Rays – What are They Used For?

By Jane Roots, RDH | Dental Hygienist

There’s a lot more to your teeth than what you can see with the naked eye. Luckily, we have X-rays to see parts of your teeth that aren’t easily visible, like in between tooth surfaces. Dental X-rays are just like X-rays for any other part of your body. A special machine using a form of electromagnetic radiation similar to light but of shorter wavelength penetrates through the solid surface of your body to produce a radiograph – or picture – of what’s inside.

X-rays help your care providers see inside your teeth and under the gums. In fact, X-rays provide an in-depth look at all different parts of your mouth and jaw including your teeth from the crown to the root, inside and out.

These “pictures” of your teeth are used to find dental problems like cavities, cracks, infections, and more. Using X-rays allows your care provider to identify and treat issues early, often preventing future oral health complications.

For children, dental X-rays are necessary to closely monitor the progress of the adult teeth and the jaw’s growth and development. Dental X-rays are also used to assess the health of the bone that surrounds the root of the tooth as well as look for any teeth that haven’t made their way up through the gums.

Dental X-rays are typically performed every six months or, in some cases, annually. However, it may be necessary for X-rays to be taken more often if your dentist is tracking the process of a dental issue or you have pain or irritation anywhere in your mouth.

Schedule an appointment with a NOAH dental provider for a comprehensive oral health assessment to develop a personalized treatment plan that is right for you.

How Often Should You Floss?

By Celeste Ouyoung, RDH | Dental Hygienist

We all know that the number one rule for healthy teeth and gums is brushing and flossing, but knowing and practicing are two very different things.

Just because we know it by heart does not mean we follow it. Many people think just brushing twice a day is enough to keep their teeth and gums healthy and that flossing is just an extra step, but that is incorrect. Flossing is harder to follow because the action required to remove plaque buildup can become tedious and difficult, especially with a full set of teeth and brushing at least twice a day.

The American Dental Association (ADA) and Bloorwest Smiles recommends flossing between your teeth at least once a day. Cleaning between your teeth can help prevent cavities and gum disease. If you do not floss between your teeth to remove plaque, that sticky deposit will continue to build up and eventually harden into tartar. This result can lead to gum disease or even cavities between teeth!

Ensure your flossing technique is effective at removing plaque by flossing up and down between your teeth and below the gumline. It can take time to practice and get better at flossing. If you have any problems flossing, consult with a NOAH dentist or dental hygienist for tips and suggestions to an alternative flossing device that will work for you.

What is the Best Kind of Toothbrush to Use?

By Celeste Ouyoung, RDH | Dental Hygienist

Need help deciding on the toothbrush that is right for you? We’ve got you covered.

The best kind of toothbrush is one with a soft bristle. Using a soft bristled toothbrush is the safest and most comfortable toothbrush to use. It will minimize the risk of scratching and damaging the tooth surfaces and gums as opposed to a medium or hard bristled toothbrush. There are many toothbrush head design options available. Toothbrushes with multi-level bristles or angled bristles perform better than the traditional flat-level bristles in removing bacterial plaque. The varying sizes of bristles are useful for getting into hard-to-reach areas.

Both manual and powered toothbrushes can be used effectively in removing plaque. Some may find it easier to use a powered toothbrush if they have difficulty with a manual toothbrush, especially those with dexterity issues like the elderly, people with disabilities, or children.

You should change your toothbrush or toothbrush head to a new one every 3 months. Food debris and bacteria can get trapped in the bristles of the toothbrush over time. The bristles of the toothbrush will start to wear down or fray the longer it is used and can reduce effectiveness in removing plaque and food debris from teeth.

Look for toothbrushes with the ADA Seal of Acceptance logo on the package. A product with this seal indicates that it is safe and effective for removal of plaque and reduction of gingivitis. You can also search on the ADA website for products that are listed to ensure you are getting a product that is safe and effective: ADA Seal of Acceptance | American Dental Association

To learn more, visit our NOAH Dental page for helpful videos and tips. If you are ready for you or your child to see a NOAH dentist, schedule an appointment today!

How Can I Prevent Cavities?

By Jane Roots, RDH | Dental Hygienist

“Brush and floss your teeth to avoid cavities.” Sound familiar? 

While we all know we’re supposed to brush and floss to keep our teeth healthy, cavities remain a common problem that we all have to contend with at one point or another, but there are some very important things we can do to prevent cavities from happening.

  • Brush with a Fluoride toothpaste after meals. Brushing regularly and properly with a soft brush gets rid of bacteria/plaque, especially after meals and before bedtime.
  • Flossing gets rid of food lodged between the teeth.
  • Visiting your dentist/hygienist regularly for a comprehensive exam and cleaning.
  • Rinse with mouthwash.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Avoid frequent snacking and drinks – cut back on acidic foods and beverages high in sugar.
  • Consider dental Sealants.
  • Consider a Fluoride treatment.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Quit smoking – this leads to gum disease, tooth loss and oral cancer.

According to Amy Nowinski of the UIC College of Dentistry, a comprehensive exam and discussion with your dentist/hygienist is the first step in taking control of your oral health. Your dentist/hygienist can inform you of your cavity risk levels, suggested treatment options, and any necessary changes you may need to make. Once you know your risk level, then you can take a more specific, effective approach to improving your oral health.

Hooray for the Tooth Fairy!

Every year, National Tooth Fairy Day is celebrated on August 22!

Losing primary or baby teeth is a normal part of growing up and, for lots of kids, so is the Tooth Fairy. So who is this magical creature retrieving your child’s teeth and how often can we expect them? NOAH General Dentist, Anita Checkuru, DMD shares the ins and outs of losing baby teeth.

Q. How many teeth do kids lose?

A. 20 primary teeth aka “baby/milk teeth” are lost. 

According to Delta Dental’s 2022 Original Tooth Fairy Poll®, the average going rate has reached a record high of $5.36 per tooth meaning most kids are racking up more than $100 through the entire process.

Q. Are there any exceptions to the number of teeth a child might lose?

A. There are scenarios where children may not get all 20 of their primary teeth due to genetics or other health reasons.

In this case, keeping all the other baby teeth in the very best health by brushing and flossing at least twice a day will help retain every tooth’s maximum exchange value.

Q. How old are kids when they start/stop losing teeth?

A. Kids typically lose their first tooth around age 6-7 and their last tooth around age 11-12.

From the Tooth Fairy’s perspective, this five-year process is welcomed both in terms of storage and cash flow.

Q. If a tooth is loose, do you recommend forcing it out, wiggling it, leaving it alone?

A. When a primary tooth is loose, it can gently be wiggled at home until it falls out.

Note the word gently.  Losing a tooth can be scary for kids, especially the first time. Wiggling the tooth for a day or two gives your child time to get used to the idea and allows for the tooth’s root to naturally dissolve. Check out these fun printables from the American Dental Association to help your child get read for the Tooth Fairy to pass the time.

Dental services for all ages are available at Desert Mission Health Center, Heuser Pediatric Dental, Palomino Health Center, and at the new Cholla Health Center opening in late 2022. Click here to learn more about our dental services or to schedule an appointment.

Expert Tips for Combatting Bad Breath

By Jane Roots, RDH | Dental Hygienist

According to a study published by the National Institute of Health, while wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID, 34% of participants realized they had bad breath. Guess what? It wasn’t the mask. Just like breathing into cupped hands to check your breath, talking or exhaling through your mouth while wearing a mask traps air causing you to smell your own breath. Thankfully, knowing is half the battle. As we move away from mask requirements in public places, you may breathe a breath of fresh air, but let’s not forget about the the monster in your mouth.

For some, restoring fresh breath can be as easy as grabbing a mint or a piece of gum, but for those with chronic bad breath, or halitosis, the key factor in preventing it is determining the cause. From something as minor as changing your brushing habits to screening for a serious health condition, try these tips for fresher breath.

Brush and Floss

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing between your teeth once a day. Proper brushing means spending at least two minutes brushing all sides of your teeth. Divide your mouth into four sections: upper, lower, left and right and spend 30-seconds brushing the inside, outside and chewing surface of each section. Finally, give your tongue a quick brush as well. Proper brushing and flossing helps to get rid of plaque and leftover food particles that affect your dental health and cause bad breath.

Visit the Dentist Regularly

You should schedule dental visits every six months for routine cleanings and checkups. Removing plaque and calculus buildup keeps your teeth healthy and can detect oral health issues like gum disease and cavities that might be harboring stinky bacteria.

Oral Appliance Care

Be sure to follow care guidelines for cleaning and maintaining any oral appliances such a dentures, retainers, or mouth guards. Failing to properly care for these items can not only cause bad breath but can also make you sick or prevent the appliance from working properly.

Stay Hydrated

Keeping your mouth moist maintains a healthy saliva flow which is important for fresh breath. Be sure to drink plenty of water and consult your health care provider about any contributing factors for dry mouth, such as taking certain medications or any underlying health conditions.

Quit Smoking

Smoking is also a contributing factor to bad breath and can increase your risk for gum disease. Discuss quitting smoking with your healthcare provider, it might be easier than you think.


Eating a balanced diet is important for fresh breath and oral health. Check out our Mouth-Healthy Cookbook for tips and tasty recipes.

Talk to Your Health Care Provider

Diabetes, liver or kidney conditions and gastrointestinal disorders can cause chronic bad breath. If you have or suspect you might have an underlying health condition, talk to your health care provider.