If you haven’t experienced the horrible taste in your mouth when you take a sip of orange juice after having recently brushed your teeth, consider yourself lucky. It’s gross. Orange juice isn’t the only culprit either. Discussions on this topic lead to a long list of things people find nasty after brushing their teeth. Sports drinks, milkshakes, alcoholic beverages, and even cookies. The big question is, why?
The science of taste is constantly evolving, but research has found that it’s the surfactants in toothpaste that causes this bad reaction in your mouth.
What is a surfactant?
Simply put, it’s what makes things create suds. Sometimes called sodium lauryl sulfate on ingredients lists, it’s found in all things that create suds, such as shampoo, detergents, and toothpaste. The reaction between the surfactants and your taste buds is to thank for this unpleasant flavor in your mouth.
Your tongue has five areas of taste buds on it corresponding to different flavors. There’s sweet, sour, bitter, salty and one for savory (called Umami). The surfactants in toothpaste dampen the ability of the sweet receptors which results in a much more bitter taste than normal. Because the surfactants also destroy the phospholipids that keep the bitter receptors in check, it further exaggerates the nasty, bitter taste.
Sharks Hate it, too
Here’s your random bit of knowledge for the day. Researchers have used sodium lauryl sulfate (surfactants) when testing shark deterrents. When used in high concentrations they actually found it to be highly effective. So, take heart, you’re not the only person or even the only creature that can’t stand the taste.
There are some options to avoid this next time you clean your teeth. The first one is obviously waiting awhile after you brush before eating or drinking anything. Some people have reported rinsing with warm water before eating helped neutralize the effect of the surfactant.
If you have more questions about toothpaste or it’s just time for a cleaning give Dr. Pappas’ office a call at (602) 957-9643.