We have all experienced the dreaded foul taste associated with orange juice after brushing. Most adults are aware of this phenomenon but many kids have yet to experience the displeasure firsthand. The question arises, why does tooth brushing change our tastes so dramatically to be able to turn sweet orange juice into a bitter tasting drink?

Main ToothPaste Ingredients

Toothpaste is generally in the form of a paste or a gel that serves the main purpose, of cleaning and maintaining our teeth and gums. Toothpaste has the ability to be abrasive, in order to remove light staining as well as dental plaque from around our teeth. Today, there are also many toothpastes to serve other roles, including teeth whitening, to relieve tooth sensitivity, and to relieve bad breath. These toothpastes use many different ingredients to specifically fit your dental needs and preferences. So what are the main ingredients of toothpaste?

-Abrasives – These ingredients make up the majority of most toothpastes (usually very close to 50%). These abrasives work to physically remove plaque and light stain. Some tooth pastes used white mica as their abrasive. White mica is a very mild abrasive and also gives tooth paste its trademark shimmer in the light. Many other brands use baking soda as an abrasive.

Fluoride – The addition of fluoride to toothpaste gives the added benefit in replacing weaker ions with stronger fluoride ions in enamel. There are different types of fluoride used and these include Sodium Fluoride (most common), stannous fluoride, olaflur, and sodium monophosphate. In studies, it has been shown that stannous fluoride is  effective  in decreasing tooth decay and also controlling gingivitis and sensitivity.

-Surfactants (detergents) – Most toothpastes contain an ingredient known to cause the very familiar  foaming action. This ingredient is called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and is also found in other personal hygiene products like shampoo. The foaming action increases a toothpastes effective cleaning power. Surfactants also help to remove plaque and stains and form a slippery barrier so that it is more difficult for plaque to adhere.

Other Ingredients – These can include antibacterial agents (like triclosan or zinc chloride), tooth enamel remineralizers (like calcium phosphate), and flavorants (like peppermint or spearmint).

Which Ingredient Is The Culprit?

It is believed that we perceive flavors based on interactions between taste molecules and the receptors on our tongues. Different molecules will interact with different receptors ( bitter, salty, sweet, etc.). The culprit in tooth paste is believed to be Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS). SLS has been known to suppress the receptors in your mouth responsible for the taste of sweets. It has also been found to destroy phosholipids. Phospholipids act as inhibitors to your bitter receptors. So, the theory is that by inhibiting sweet receptors and destroying phospholipids, SLS is able to dull the sweetness and promotes the bitter taste in orange juice.

SLS is found in about 99% of all toothpastes sold in the world today. It is believed that this foaming detergent is also responsible for giving people canker sores. Patients who have found that switching to an SLS free toothpaste helps reduce the number of canker sores they get over time.

Mint oil is also a culprit. Mint is a very strong flavor, it can easily overpower the subtleties of orange juice flavor.

Conclusion

Now you finally have an answer to that question that has been in the back of your mind all of these years! Now that you know why orange juice and toothpaste taste so bad together, try to remind yourself that it is better to brush after breakfast than before. Remember to practice good oral hygiene daily as well as visiting your dentist regularly to maintain a healthy and bright smile.