Toothpaste + Orange = YUCK!

(Part One of Two) 

Our research into the impact of toothbrushing on the taste of oranges began with a cherry pie.

Most of us had already experienced the Toothpaste Orange Phenomenon. Hereafter referred to as TOP, the Toothpaste Orange Phenomenon is simple, and goes like this: brush your teeth, taste an orange, and be horrified by how disgusting the orange is. Wait a while, and your tastebuds will eventually reset so that you can once again enjoy the flavor of oranges.

We had a cherry pie. We knew we were going to eat the cherry pie. We were looking for an experiment to make the cherry pie eating experience more interesting. We wondered…would toothpaste affect cherry pie flavor like it affects the taste of oranges?

Half of us were brave and brushed our teeth. Half of us acted as the control for this experiment, and did not brush our teeth. We tested TOP, and, sure enough, the tooth brushers couldn’t stand the taste of oranges, while they tasted fine to the non-brushers. Then everyone ate cherry pie. Everyone loved cherry pie. TOP, we discovered, does not impact the flavor of cherry pie at all. Intrigued, we ate oranges again. This time, the oranges tasted perfectly fine to all of us, although the non-brushers did notice that the oranges tasted less sweet after the cherry pie.

Did the cherry pie fix TOP? Or did TOP just wear off while we ate pie? We turned to the internet for information about previous scientific experiments regarding TOP.

Our online research taught us several things:

  1. Scientists aren’t completely sure what causes TOP.
  2. The prevailing theory is that sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) causes TOP via two different mechanisms:
    1. By stripping the fats off of our tongues which block our bitter tastebuds, and
    2. By inhibiting our sweet taste buds.
  3. Another theory is that flouride from toothpaste interacts with acetic acid in oranges to create the strange flavor in our mouths
  4. In scientific studies, TOP lasts approximately one hour, and then fades away.

Our preliminary experimentation showed us that cherry pie actually cured TOP in far less than an hour.

This all left us with many questions, such as:

  1. Why did the cherry pie cure TOP?
    1. Did the sugar counteract it?
    2. Did the fat in the crust re-coat the bitter tastebuds?
    3. Did the fruit somehow reset our tongues?
    4. Was it all of the above?
  2. Could we cure TOP more efficiently if we isolated the exact component in cherry pie that fixed it for us?
  3. Could we figure out whether SLS or flouride or possibly mint caused TOP?

So we made a list of things we needed to do further research, and we met back up again a week later, with better supplies, clearer questions, and a plan…

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