Why Food Tastes Bad Right After Brushing Your Teeth

published Mar 20, 2013
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If you’ve ever had something to eat or drink right after brushing your teeth, you know what we’re talking about. Suddenly that sweet, tangy orange juice tastes … bitter and weird. Most other foods are a little off, too. Why is that?

According to Mental Floss, it’s all the fault of sodium laureth sulfate, also known as sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), or sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). These chemicals are known as surfactants, and they’re what make items like toothpaste, shampoo, and detergents foamy and easy to swish around. But they also mess with our taste buds by making things taste less sweet and more bitter than they normally would be. Here’s how:

[Surfactants] suppress the receptors on our taste buds that perceive sweetness, inhibiting our ability to pick up the sweet notes of food and drink. And, as if that wasn’t enough, they break up the phospholipids on our tongue. These fatty molecules inhibit our receptors for bitterness and keep bitter tastes from overwhelming us, but when they’re broken down by the surfactants in toothpaste, bitter tastes get enhanced.

So to avoid that unpleasant after-brushing taste, look for an SLS-free toothpaste … or just wait about 30 minutes.