Casey, a 34-year-old in northern Virginia, cherishes the few sips of orange juice he gets every month. “I’ll buy a bottle at Wegmans, and more often than not, I swear it’s gone before morning,” he says of how quickly it disappears with his wife and two sons in the house. “I don’t know if they love orange juice that much, or if they’re hiding it because they hate how I drink it.”
No, Casey isn’t a straight-from-the-carton drinker or loud gulper. Nor does he prefer extra pulp. What drives his family crazy is that Casey brushes his teeth before reaching into the fridge for that morning’s OJ. “For me, the minty-tangy one-two punch creates such a unique, potent flavor that it’s almost revitalizing,” he explains. “I never understood why it gets such a bad rap.”
To say drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth gets a “bad rap” is putting it lightly. The taste combination is so universally despised that toothpaste companies have gone out of their way to explain why the two morning staples don’t mix.
It all comes down to a chemical called sodium lauryl sulfate, which “creates suds or foam while you brush and helps clean your teeth,” per Colgate’s blog. The thing is, it also suppresses the tongue’s ability to taste sweet flavors and breaks down “the fatty compounds that help reduce bitter tastes,” the post continues. “[So] 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.” With no greater mouthful of blech than a tall glass of orange juice after you’ve just polished your pearly whites.
And yet, as is the case for anything that seems universally despised, there are a handful of humans like Casey who truly revel in this ghastly oral chemical reaction.
“I enjoy when the freshness of toothpastes sticks around in my mouth and the bitterness that comes with that,” says Johan, a 19-year-old in Germany, who adds that his proclivity for bitter things might be a result of his upbringing. “I’m from Hamburg, in Northern Germany, where black licorice is far more common and the beer is much more bitter as opposed to Southern Germany. I always drink my coffee black and strong, I enjoy the taste of black licorice and I like beers with more hops — and the same applies to the amplified bitterness of orange juice after toothpaste.”
Sea, 20, says she discovered her love for the blend when she was 12. “I mentioned enjoying it to my sibling, and they poked fun at me,” she tells me. “It’s like chewing minty gum and drinking water afterwards, I find it kinda cathartic. I can’t find a better word than that, but it’s quite an enjoyable experience.”
Like many other post-toothpaste orange juice drinkers, Casey discovered his love for the combo by accident. “It was out of pure laziness when I was in high school,” he explains. “Everyday I used to go downstairs, drink orange juice, then come back up to brush my teeth. But the day I was too lazy to do that, I discovered, ‘Hey, this is actually pretty good!’”
Ever since, he’s gone out of his way to reverse the order of a.m. operations. “It’s fine on its own, but in my opinion it’s kind of bland,” he says. “I much prefer brushing my teeth before enjoying what few sips of orange juice I get anymore. That way I get the most of that enhanced tangy bitterness you can’t find anywhere else.”
Before you judge him, Casey urges you to give it a shot, too. “Anyone who says they don’t like it, I bet they’ve never tried it in the first place,” he says. “So I challenge them to go brush their teeth and drink some orange juice. Maybe their taste buds will have changed, or maybe their minds will be blown.”