Some things just go together: peanut butter and jelly, burgers and fries, chocolate and pretzels. But orange juice and toothpaste? Not so much. If you've ever decided to drink a glass of OJ right after brushing your teeth, you probably regretted it. As it turns out, a key ingredient in toothpaste is responsible for making orange juice taste different after you've brushed.
Orange Juice & Toothpaste: Understanding The Taste
The taste buds in your mouth play a big role in determining how foods, drinks or toothpastes will taste. Although most taste buds are located on your tongue, PubMed Health explains you also have some in the nasal cavity, on the epiglottis and at the back of your throat.
With your tongue and taste buds, you're able to detect five different flavor types:
When orange juice and toothpaste get together, they affect your body's ability to taste sweet and bitter flavors, which plays a big part in making that OJ taste so gross.
Meet Sodium Laurel Sulfate
According to the American Chemical Society, most toothpastes available, like Colgate Total Clean Mint, contain sodium laurel sulfate. Sodium laurel sulfate, or SLS, is a surfactant, or a type of soap. It's found in many beauty and household products, not just toothpaste. SLS creates suds or foam while you brush and helps clean your teeth.
SLS does two things that can transform OJ from a sweet, refreshing drink into a glass of bitterness. First, it suppresses the receptors on the taste buds that can pick up on sweet flavors. So, for a while at least, you're not able to taste "sweet," no matter what you drink. SLS also breaks up phospholipids, the fatty compounds that help reduce bitter tastes by blocking the receptors that sense bitterness.
OJ and other citrus juices usually have a mixture of bitter and sweet flavors. Under normal circumstances, you're able to taste the sweetness. But when your sweetness receptors are out of commission and there's nothing to block your bitterness receptors, you're going to get a mouthful of blech.
What Can You Do?
You have a few options when it comes to avoiding that unpleasant taste. The first is to avoid drinking any citrus juice right after you brush your teeth. If you usually eat breakfast after brushing, that might mean finding a new juice to drink in the morning or skipping the juice altogether. Or, you could switch the order of breakfast and brushing. Eat and drink first, then brush your teeth. Just keep in mind that you should wait about 30 minutes after eating citrus before brushing to avoid damaging your teeth's enamel. Another option is to switch to a toothpaste that doesn't contain SLS. If you aren't sure which toothpaste to use or if making the switch is a good option for you, you can always talk to your dentist to see what they recommend.