Ever tried eating after brushing your teeth? If you haven’t, you’ve got to. It tastes completely different. The orange is not sweet anymore. Have you ever wondered why food tastes unreal after toothbrush?

Let’s find out what makes the otherwise tasty food so weird after brushing our teeth.

Why food tastes unreal after toothbrush?

food tastes unreal after toothbrush
Image: pixabay.com

Before getting to the taste difference, let me try to explain where does the taste come from first.

There are 2000 – 5000 taste buds present on the back and front of a human tongue, which are responsible for the taste as each of them contains 50 – 100 taste receptor cells. Some taste buds are present on the sides, roof and in the back of the mouth and some in the throat region as well.

When the food we eat reacts chemically with the taste receptor cells, it produces the sensation of taste. The taste may be sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami (savoury), with bitter being little unpleasant than others.

So, it’s just a chemical reaction that makes the taste. What happens if some chemicals modify the chemical reactions? Does our toothpaste contain chemicals that affect our taste receptor cells and make them dull?

Toothpaste contains more than 20 ingredients in order to maintain oral hygiene. These ingredients include surfactants like Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES) in order to produce foam, disperse the toothpaste inside our oral cavity as well as their cleansing property.

SLS is most widely used and it is also used in other products such as shampoos, detergent, shaving creams, etc. due to its good foaming ability and low cost.

What does SLS do?

Researchers have found that SLS affects our taste receptors so that we can taste bitter taste more easily than others.

According to research, SLS removes the phospholipids in our tongue responsible for suppressing bitter taste and also it suppresses our sweetness receptors. This means we are more likely to taste bitterness than sweetness.

For instance, if we eat sweeter fruits the bitterness due to acids found in them is much enhanced than the sweetness. So the fruit is not sweeter anymore. But don’t panic, this only lasts for a short time as SLS dissolves in our saliva and is easily carried away. Hence this anomaly in taste disappears in some minutes as we go on eating or not.

With such chemicals present, does toothpaste harm us?

Till date, on the basis of researches, no sign of carcinogenicity has been found when SLS is consumed or applied directly. Though SLS is not carcinogenic, studies have shown that it is linked with the cause of aphthous ulcers referred to as canker or white sores.

But the study has no impact on the production of toothpaste using SLS due to its low cost and good foaming properties. There are varieties of toothpaste in the market nowadays which use other surfactants than SLS but it still is widely used by the toothpaste producer giants.

Ashwin Khadka is a PhD Scholar in Nano Energy and Thermofluid Lab in Korea University, Republic of Korea under Korean Government Scholarship Program. He has a Masters Degree in Physics from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. He is a science enthusiast, researcher and writer.