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Can Toothpaste Make You Fail a Breathalyzer Test?

Here’s an interesting news story from CosmeticsDesign.com about Massachusetts Senator Anthony Galluccio’s drunk driving arrest. The reason this caught the attention of my “beauty brain” is that the Senator claimed his that his toothpaste made him fail a breathalyzer test. Could this be true?

Tipsy toothpaste

The controversy centers around the ingredient sorbitol, a sugar alcohol which is used in toothpaste to provide sweetness and help maintain the water content of the paste. Galluccio regularly uses either Sensodyne Toothpaste and Colgate Total Whitening and reportedly a physician told him that these products could cause a positive breathalyzer result. However, James Herms, a formulator who helped develop Sensodyne formulas says that sorbitol ‘is not going to show up’ on a DOT-approved alcohol testing device. The only oral care ingredient likely to cause such an effect is ethyl alcohol, which is used in larger amounts in mouth washes.

Joe Dwinell from the Boston Herald, the paper that broke this story, tested this theory by brushing his teeth with the same Sensodyne product and then taking a breathalyzer test. After only two minutes, the results showed no trace of alcohol. While this certainly isn’t a scientifically rigorous test, the “sorbitol defense” certainly sounds like BS to me.

What do YOU think? Does this sound like beauty science or BS to you? Leave a comment for the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • rick July 19, 2014, 1:52 pm

    i know from being on home detention and having to take 5 breatilizers a day they told us certain toothpastes, mouth wash, certain spagetti sauces menthol tobacco, some candies even can show up on the breathalizer they told me to brush my teeth with baking soda only while i was on home detention

  • Denise Halliday November 18, 2014, 11:12 pm

    My son came out of the dentist with a tube of Sensodyne the dentist had given him for bad toothache caused by sensitive teeth.He put a dab on his tooth and drove away only to be pulled up by a cop and given a breath test which he failed.He tried to tell cop and even took him back to the dentist only for him to tell the cop there was no alcohol in the Sensodyne. the cop took him back to the station for more tests where he had 4 zero zero alcohol tests.

  • Chris Harris November 19, 2014, 1:31 am

    No this happened to me yesterday one minute after I left the dentist and he pit sensory me on my tooth two minutes before being pulled over , I failed two times roadside then arrested and finally cleared breathalyser at cop shop an hour later after talking to lawyer , so stressfull i would have been locked up

  • Jaspreet January 25, 2015, 10:52 am

    I haven’t drank in over 3 weeks and just blew a fail from brushing my teeth. Nothing else but brushing my teeth, didn’t even have breakfast.

    I have it installed in my car so I know how it works.

  • jkellz35 April 13, 2015, 10:45 pm

    Absolute b.s. With a capital B and I will call anyone a BOLD face liar who says otherwise. I got pulled over twice after brushing my teeth with sensodyne toothpaste. Once-within minutes of brushing-for failing to stop at a stop sign. Another time It was like 15 minutes later after brushing when I had to go through a dui checkpoint. Both time I blew a 0.0 without even the tiniest trace of alcohol in my system. I am 5’8 and weigh 135lbs. Might have nothing to do with tolerance-because I can handle more booze than my 200lb friend; However, it does have to do with the amount of alcohol the liver metabolizes.

    Another point, the average person metabolizes the equivalent of one 12oz beer per hour. Now do the math or take an educated guess how much toothpaste is needed to equal an entire can/bottle of beer or a shot of hard liquor. And even if it did have an effect. You would have to swallow about 2 tubes and get pulled over immediately and get stopped driving. Also, if you have one of the interlock devices, the people who said they were pulled over are FoS, because the car ain’t starting to begin with to even have a chance to get pulled over. For the other people, you would have to have the sensodyne for dinner and have one tube for dessert and you still wouldn’t come close to a .08bac

    • Military Police Retired May 27, 2019, 5:36 pm

      This sounds like a great informative explanation. However, people do not eat or drink toothpaste. It on the hand absorbs into your mouth which then when blowing it happens to expel the alcohol. Unfortunately this has happened many times before. Testing took place with different brands of toothpaste and mouthwash and all was tested prior and blew 0.0 then applied products and some blew .03, .02, .015 as well as some that did not. All which are within legal limits. However, if on Probation or on a Zero Tolerance Fail. So it can happen. Probably way more often than publicized.

  • Glenn Hunter July 5, 2016, 6:39 pm

    I was stopped by the Isleta police in Bernalillo County because I was failing to maintain a traffic lane. Before this happened, I had put a little bit of toothe paste in my mouth, and rinsed with a small bottle of mouth wash and was later given the breathanalyzer test and failed big time. Little did I know that toothe paste has alcolohol in it. I know that mouth wash does, not toothe paste. Well, I guess that was a lesson to be learned, not to brush your teethe, or rinse your mouth out with mouth wash before driveing. Now the boot and everything else has to be put on my vehicle just for all that.

  • donna August 27, 2016, 4:57 am

    I can do a breath test every morning before brushing my teeth and then after brushing it comes back with either 0.2,0.3 or 0.4 bac. It definitely has an effect.

  • Mary December 8, 2017, 12:26 pm

    It definitely can make you fail!!! I have smart start on my car. It happened twice to me! First time, I had been having problems with it aborting tests often, so I just thought it was some weird fluke. 2nd time, I realized I had brushed my teeth immediately before leaving home (both times with NO alcohol in me!). I use Colgate Total Advanced Deep Clean. Scared the hell out of me.

  • Cindy May 4, 2018, 5:33 pm

    I just had a fail on my smart start after brushing my teeth. I googled why toothpaste may cause a fail, and found this article. I read that sorbitol is a controversial ingredient. So, I just looked at my toothpaste and the first ingredient listed is, guess what, sorbitol. I used GUM fluoride toothpaste. I am getting rid of it now!!

  • Mike June 17, 2019, 11:54 am

    This is nuts. I have had zero alcohol for months, after getting my first DUI. Had an IID (breathalyzer) installed in my car this week, as mandated by the court. Have “failed” the blow test both mornings I have attempted it since getting the device installed. Cannot possibly be anything other than my toothpaste (Colgate Total Whitening), as I’ve had absolutely no alcohol for months, and both mornings I had consumed nothing but green tea, and then brushed my teeth. To the person saying you “would need to eat multiple tubes of toothpaste to fail a breathalyzer”… that’s flat-out wrong. Perhaps that person is confusing the legal blood-alcohol limit (0.08 here in Oregon) with the ZERO limit for court-mandated in-car breathalyzers.

    Now it will cost me $75 for my “failed tests”. What a racket. Am I not supposed to brush my teeth??

    • Perry Romanowski June 18, 2019, 7:31 am

      Wow – well, I guess you should try a different toothpaste? Also, if you are using a mouthwash those sometimes contain alcohol.