Mint tends to make your mouth feel cold, not hot, which is why it can be confusing when mint-flavored things seem spicy. For example, some toothpaste is so minty that it seems spicy to users, even though it makes the mouth feel cold! How can this be?
Mint toothpaste can taste spicy because it contains menthol, which produces a feeling similar to capsaicin, which is the heat-producing element in chili peppers.
The rest of this article will answer all your questions about toothpaste, spiciness, mintiness, and more, so if you have questions about why your toothpaste flavor seems so like the spiciness of peppers, or if you’re wondering why mint is such a common toothpaste flavor at all, keep reading!
Why Does Mint Toothpaste Seem Spicy?
Mint flavoring contains menthol, which creates an effect in the mouth similar to capsaicin, which is a heat-producing chemical in chili peppers. Because of this, mint can occasionally seem spicy, even though it makes the mouth feel cold, not hot.
There are many different toothpaste flavors, but the most common flavor is mint. This mint flavoring contains peppermint oil, which contains menthol. Menthol produces a chilling sensation that leads many people to believe their toothpaste is working, as the chill is associated with cleanliness.
This chilling sensation is similar to capsaicin’s effect on the senses. Capsaicin is the source of heat in chili peppers, and it causes a burning sensation when it touches mucus membranes. This temperature-sensitive feeling mimics the temperature-sensitive feeling of menthol, giving some mint-flavored items, such as toothpaste, the feeling of “spiciness.”
Menthol gives the sensation that you have ice in your mouth, and this extreme temperature causes the same response in your brain as if you had an extremely hot chili in your mouth.
Both menthol and capsaicin affect sensory receptors that monitor temperature and pain, so consuming either triggers a similar response in the brain. Therefore, it can be difficult to differentiate between something that is really hot and something that is really cold.
Scientists believe that the plants that produce menthol and capsaicin probably did so to deter predators. The plants with these elements were less likely to be eaten than plants that didn’t cause such an intense response to the flavor.
My favorite mint toothpaste is the Marvis Classic Strong Mint Toothpaste (available at Amazon.com). I like this brand because the peppermint flavor makes my mouth feel fresh all day, and the formula is proven to prevent decay, tartar, and plaque.
Why Is Toothpaste Commonly Mint-Flavored?
Toothpaste is commonly mint-flavored because the menthol in mint flavoring gives the sensation of a refreshing and clean mouth, which indicates that the toothpaste is working.
There are lots of different flavors of toothpaste: strawberry, bubblegum, chocolate, watermelon, cinnamon, cupcake, and even bacon! However, no matter how effective these formulas are in cleaning teeth, they won’t give off the same clean and fresh feeling as mint will.
Mint, spearmint, peppermint, and wintergreen are the leading flavors for toothpaste because the menthol present in these flavors makes the mouth feel fresh, which most people want to feel after brushing their teeth.
If someone brushes their teeth right after breakfast with bacon-flavored toothpaste, it may feel like they didn’t brush their teeth at all.
Ultimately, mint became the most popular flavor for toothpaste because menthol acts as a sensory cue that your mouth is clean, and it is also this menthol that can cause some toothpaste to taste spicy.
Adding flavor to toothpaste is necessary because the compounds in modern toothpaste that make it effective also wouldn’t taste very good on their own. Fluoride is great for cleaning teeth, but it tastes metallic without intervention.
Another popular ingredient in toothpaste, tetra-sodium pyrophosphate, tastes bitter and gross. Therefore, flavor specialists at toothpaste companies combine different oils to create a flavor profile that offsets the flavor of the cleansing elements.
If the spicy flavor of mint toothpaste is too overwhelming for you, consider finding another flavor that you prefer. I like Dr. Sheffield’s Certified Natural Toothpaste (available on Amazon.com) because it still makes my mouth feel fresh without an overwhelming mint taste. I also like that it has no fluoride or other synthetic ingredients.
If mint is too much for your kids to handle, I suggest bubblegum-flavored toothpaste, such as the ACT Kids Anticavity Fluoride Toothpaste, (available on Amazon.com) This toothpaste strengthens teeth and prevents cavities, and the yummy bubblegum flavor helps kids get more excited to brush than an intense mint flavor would.
Benefits of Mint for Your Oral Health
The best thing to do for your teeth is to brush and clean them, no matter what flavor of toothpaste you use. However, there are some benefits to sticking with the traditional mint flavor, even if it does taste spicy sometimes. Here are some advantages:
- Mint has anti-inflammatory properties. If your gums are swollen or bleeding, mint-flavored toothpaste or mouthwash can help ease these symptoms. This is because menthol can help kill bacteria that gather in the mouth and causes gum bleeding.
- Mint is antimicrobial. Mint kills bacteria that can cause tooth decay. Certain bacteria feed on food particles that are stuck in oral cavities, which can cause detrimental oral health issues. However, the properties in mint help kill this bacteria, keeping your teeth, gums, and tongue healthy.
- Mint stimulates saliva. This might sound gross, but saliva is essential for oral health. It acts as a natural mouthwash, as it rinses any leftover bits of food that may be lingering in your teeth. These food bits would otherwise feed bacteria, so it is better that saliva washes them away first.
- Mint gives you fresh breath! More than any other flavor of toothpaste, mint leaves your breath tasting and feeling fresh and delicious, which will help you be more confident throughout the day.
- Mint masks the unwanted flavors of other ingredients in toothpaste. Mint is a strong flavor, so it does a better job of masking the bitter and unappealing taste of the other ingredients in toothpaste than other, weaker flavors do. This may help you be more inclined to brush your teeth at the beginning and end of every day.
- Mint contains vitamins and minerals that help oral bone density. Mint has potassium, calcium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese, all of which help your teeth, jaw, and skeletal system function properly and gain strength.
If you truly cannot stand the spicy flavor of mint in your toothpaste, choose a different flavor! Your teeth will still be clean and healthy as long as you brush thoroughly every day. However, if you do enjoy the mint flavor, you’ll also enjoy the benefits of using mint-flavored toothpaste.
If you want some of the benefits without the toothpaste flavor, try drinking some peppermint tea. I like the Organic Spearmint Leaf Tea Bags (available on Amazon.com) because there are no additives, and the tea is non-GMO. Additionally, the spearmint leaves are all grown in the United States, and all packing is done in the United States.
Despite being commonly mint-flavored and therefore intended to make your mouth feel cold, toothpaste can occasionally taste quite spicy. This is because the menthol present in some toothpaste creates an effect similar to the capsaicin in peppers, which is what causes your mouth to feel hot and the peppers to taste spicy.