Hack Your Taste Buds with Toothpaste

Ever been in this situation? You’re ready to head out the door—teeth brushed, hair styled, favorite clothes on, but grab one last swig of o.j. on your way. If you’re like most people, your first reaction will be “Yuck!” Your taste buds have just fallen victim to the effect of sodium lauryl sulfate. What’s going on?

Try this activity and then learn more about the chemistry behind it.

Activity

You will need:

  • Glass of orange juice
  • Toothpaste that contains sodium lauryl sulfate (check the label)
  • Paper towel
  1. Take a glass of orange juice. Place your tongue in the juice. Does it taste sweet? Sour? Bitter?
  2. Now take a swallow and swish it around in your mouth. Does it taste sweet? Sour? Bitter? A combination?
  3. Take a small dab of toothpaste and smear it across your tongue. Allow it to sit for 30 seconds, then you wipe it off with a paper towel (so you do not swallow the toothpaste).
  4. Place your tongue in the orange juice again. What sensation do you feel? What is its taste, compared to before?
  5. Now take a swallow and swish it around in your mouth, getting some on the sides of your tongue. What is its taste? What is its taste, compared to before?

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What’s going on? Some substances, like sodium lauryl sulfate, can affect a particular taste, or even more than one. In this case, it enhances the bitter tastes in a food, while subduing sweetness. Some people won’t be bothered by the action of lauryl sulfate on your taste receptors—some of us have genetic differences that affect our ability to detect bitter tastes.

    

Learn more! Check out the Reactions video “Why Does Toothpaste Make Orange Juice Taste Bad?

We have more activities to hack your taste buds! Try out:

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