Why Toothpaste Makes Things Like Orange Juice Taste So Awful

Orange juice can be great at breakfast, unless you just brushed your teeth. Why is that? Read on to find out! Thanks for visiting us at Saddle Rock Pediatric Dentistry of Aurora, CO. Enjoy reading!

You may think it might be the common mint flavor of toothpaste clashing with other flavors, but in the case of orange juice and many other things, this isn’t actually what’s going on. The culprit here is thought to be two compounds almost universally added to toothpastes -sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium lauryl ether sulfate, which are anionic surfactants, meaning they lower the surface tension of water.

Why is that desirable in toothpaste? Because it works as something of a detergent, and makes the toothpaste foam to help it spread around inside your mouth easier. Besides any cleaning effect, this has the by-product of making you feel like the toothpaste is doing something, which toothpaste manufacturers have found to be a great way to get people to buy more of their toothpaste.

Mint is added to toothpaste for this same reason, as it leaves your mouth feeling cool, clean, and fresh, particularly if it’s well distributed throughout your mouth.

As Tracy Sinclair, one-time brand manager at Oral-B stated in the book The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg,

“Consumers need some kind of signal that a product is working. We can make toothpaste taste like anything — blueberries, green tea — and as long as it has a cool tingle, people feel like their mouth is clean. The tingling doesn’t make the toothpaste work any better. It just convinces people it’s doing the job.”

(Interestingly enough, besides any real cleaning effect, sodium lauryl sulfate is added to shampoo for similar marketing reasons, as people perceive that foaming shampoo works better than non-foaming, whether a particular brand’s foaming shampoo actually cleans better than some other non-foaming shampoo or not.)

Back to your taste-buds -the sodium lauryl sulfate interacts with your sweet taste receptors, making them less sensitive, and thus dulling the sweet flavor. In addition to that, it also destroys phospholipids in your mouth, which are compounds that have the same type of effect sodium lauryl sulfate has on sweet taste buds, except the phospholipids dampen your bitter taste buds.

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