Not to sound like an old, but sometimes I feel like I’ve seen it all. All the weird energy drinks, the ranch dressing ice cream, the dumb, viral pasta dishes… it eventually desensitizes you into a daze, where you just kind of become ambivalent towards all the new, “weird” products you see online. As a food writer, I’m one of the first in line for news about all of these drops. A “clean” tequila from bored moms? Great. Another plant-based meat substitute that claims to be the best one yet? Sure, whatever. New pasta shapes? OK.
These days, you have to wake up pretty early in the morning to send me a pitch that legitimately grips me. Such was the case when I got an email from Rainer Agles, founder and CEO of Chilly Mouth, heralding a new toothpaste that uses menthol and… well, ghost pepper flakes. Yes, I thought, sitting up in my chair. A chance to feel alive again. I will try the toothpaste. Responding to his email and sourcing the product for myself, I felt like I was Rambo or Rocky, an old dog being pulled back in for one more horrible battle; the ghost of VICE’s food page MUNCHIES had awakened to haunt my taste buds once again.
You might be wondering whether ghost pepper toothpaste is an actual, serious product. Indeed it is, and it’s not a gimmick… at least not completely. We’ve long been told by health experts and dietitians that spicy food is good for you, but Chilly Mouth takes it a step further. “Capsicums from ghost pepper flakes in Chilly are antimicrobial, killing 75% of bad breath-causing bacteria,” the website claims; thus, an actual raison d’être emerges, and one that goes beyond simply using spicy food to cause us pain (since we can’t feel anything else anymore). The website goes on to add that Chilly Mouth contains no “SLS, parabens, artificial flavors, artificial dyes, fluoride, and microbeads,” making it a more “natural” option than conventional big-brand toothpastes.
OK, you’re probably reading this to find out what it’s like to try this toothpaste. I’ll start by saying that I live in a very spicy household. Like, last night—since I clearly forgot I was doing this today—we ordered Indian food that was so spicy that my girlfriend finished our bottle of Tums. Like, we have an entire shelf in the pantry for hot sauces. I once wrote a whole article investigating whether chile-packed food could actually destroy your taste buds (it can’t). So the idea of a ghost pepper toothpaste didn’t really faze me (though I must admit that the prospect of maybe having diarrhea this afternoon wasn’t especially exciting, but this is the life I chose).
Because of my high tolerance for spiciness, I calmly mentally prepared for my mouth to feel like it was erupting in flames. “It seems intuitive, but one thing I tell people is the amount of toothpaste you put on your toothbrush makes a big difference in the level of heat,” Agles said in an email. “If you want to crank up the heat, add some more to the toothbrush. If it was too hot the first time, dial it down by putting less on.” I started by taking a dab of the toothpaste on my finger and licking it, just to see if it was immediately insanely hot. It wasn’t, so I swabbed my tongue with it. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad. The interesting thing about the flavor combo, and what’s smart about it, is that spearmint is inherently “spicy” in its own way, so it was honestly a little difficult to distinguish which ingredient was actually feeling tingly on my tongue. Confident that it wasn’t too powerful, I put a pretty decent pea-sized amount of it on my toothbrush, because why not?
When I began brushing, I almost didn’t notice the spiciness—it was sort of pleasant. That, however, was the front of my teeth; when I switched to the back, I began to feel it, alright. My mouth was filled with a strange, spicy mint fog, which nearly activated my gag reflex—not because it was gross (it’s actually pretty tasty), but just because my palate was so confused that my body just assumed I was doing something pernicious to it. All in all, it was a zesty experience, but nowhere near on par with some hella hot wings or Thai food.
When I finished brushing my teeth, I had the distinct aftertaste of having eaten something distinctly peppery, but there was also a significant minty vibe. I liked it, TBH. It was the kind of intense, clean feeling that makes you not want to drink orange juice after you finish brushing. For digestion’s sake I maybe shouldn’t have had two cups of coffee immediately following it, but let’s just call that part of the experiment. Ultimately, the toothpaste had the same cleaning-awakening effect as using Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap (my choice for years) in the shower does—it’s aggressive and sharp, but in a nice way.
TL;DR: Chilly Mouth toothpaste is a unique and surprisingly pleasant experience that’s definitely worth trying. I’m not a dentist, so I can’t recommend it on a medical or hygienic level, but the flavor combination of spearmint and ghost pepper actually works, and the general “bit” (toothpaste + spicy = LOL) is strong. As for the question of whether the toothpaste is actually super spicy, the answer is a resounding… not really. It doesn’t do justice to the punishing promise of “ghost pepper,” but that’s not really the point here—if you want a serious ghost pepper experience, get some of those Paqui chips (be careful, they almost took out one of our Desus & Mero production staffers) or go to Popeyes. However, if you just want some spicy-fresh breath (and to spend your morning wondering whether you’ll have a bathroom emergency later), Chilly Mouth is the ticket.
Pick up Chilly Mouth toothpaste on Amazon.
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