Dentist Reveals Surprise Foods That Give You Bad Breath

Bad breath, otherwise known as halitosis, can have several causes. But does eating certain foods contribute to the problem?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), bad breath is a common problem, with studies indicating that around 50 percent of adults have experienced the issue at some point in their lives.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Man checking for bad breath
Stock image: A man checking for bad breath. Eating certain foods can contribute to bad breath. iStock

There are many factors that can lead to bad breath, one of which is poor oral hygiene.

"If food is left in the mouth i.e., not brushing, can lead to an increase in bad bacteria or plaque which causes bad breath," a spokesperson for the U.K.-based Oral Health Foundation (OHF) told Newsweek. "Other factors such as gum disease, cavities or infections caused in some cases by poor oral hygiene can also contribute to bad breath."

Bad breath that won't go away or a constant bad taste in the mouth can be a warning sign of advanced gum disease, which is caused by plaque—a sticky, cavity-causing bacteria.

But if your dentist has ruled out oral diseases and you brush and floss every day, your bad breath could be the result of another problem, such as a sinus condition, gastric reflux, diabetes, and liver or kidney disease, Roopali Kulkarni—a trained dentist, assistant director of the postgraduate oral medicine program at Penn Dental Medicine, and ADA spokesperson—told Newsweek.

Aside from the aforementioned factors, habits such as tobacco usage, whether smoking or chewing, can also lead to bad breath, as can certain foods and drinks.

What Foods Can Contribute to Bad Breath?

Kulkarni told Newsweek certain foods and drinks, such as garlic, onions and coffee, can contribute to objectionable breath because they contain odor-causing compounds.

"When these compounds enter the bloodstream, they are transferred to the lungs, where they are exhaled," Kulkarni said.

In addition, foods that are rich in sugar can speed up the growth of bacteria in the mouth, which can cause odor.

"Foods such as chocolate, biscuits or cakes contain high amounts of sugar which can increase the risk of cavities and poor oral hygiene resulting in bad breath," the OHF spokesperson said. "The longer the residue stays in your mouth the more time the bacteria can feed and thrive.

"Sugary drinks can have a huge impact on the mouth. Many people do not realize how important it is to clean their mouths after having these as most do not realize the amount of sugar they contain."

How Can Bad Breath Be Treated?

According to Kulkarni, there are a number of ways to treat bad breath, including:

  • Brushing twice a day and cleaning between your teeth daily with floss.
  • Using over-the-counter mouthwashes. Look for products that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance that meet ADA Seal standards for safety and efficacy.
  • Keeping your saliva flowing by eating healthy foods that require chewing, like carrots or apples. You can also try chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candies.
  • Visiting your dentist regularly. Regular checkups allow your dentist to detect any problems such as gum disease or dry mouth and stop them before they become more serious.

If the cause of your bad breath is not a dental issue and is related to a medical problem, then you should see a health care provider to try and resolve that.