Skip to content

    Oral Care

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Bad Breath: Good and Bad Foods

    A combination of diet and dental hygiene is the best defense against bad breath.
    By
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

    Got bad breath? You may want to take a look at your diet.

    If your dental hygiene is great -- you brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and clean your tongue -- your bad breath could be linked to your diet.

    Recommended Related to Oral Health

    Repairing a Chipped or Broken Tooth

    You're crunching ice or a piece of hard candy when you notice something hard in your mouth that doesn't melt or dissolve. You get a sick feeling as you realize what it is -- a piece of broken tooth. Although the enamel that covers your teeth is the hardest, most mineralized tissue in the body, its strength has limits. Falling, receiving a blow to the face, or biting down on something hard -- particularly if a tooth already has some decay -- can cause a tooth to chip or break. If you discover you...

    Read the Repairing a Chipped or Broken Tooth article > >

    Certain foods can taint your breath for hours and contribute to dragon breath in other ways. Here are some of the culprits:

    Garlic and onions. "Garlic and onions top the list when it comes to halitosis," says Lisa Harper Mallonee, MPH, RD, associate professor at Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry.

    That's because the smelly sulfur compounds in garlic and onions linger in your mouth and are absorbed in the bloodstream and expelled when you exhale.

    Coffee and alcohol. Coffee and alcoholic drinks create a favorable environment for oral bacterial growth. They also have a drying effect, which reduces saliva flow and allows foul-smelling bacteria to linger longer.

    Several other foods – including dairy products, a diet heavy in meat, orange juice, and soda – sometimes get talked about as bad breath triggers. Mallonee says she doesn’t have “any sound scientific evidence” about that.

    Paul Vankevich, DMD, an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, agrees. Any food or drink, he says, could briefly cause breath odor if it's allowed to linger in the mouth. "This is insignificant and non-consequential," Vankevich tells WebMD in an email. Brushing your mouth and your tongue gets your good breath back.

    Foods and Drinks That Make Your Breath Smell Good

    Water. This odor-free fluid helps flush from the mouth the bits of food bacteria feed upon. Drinking water promotes the production of saliva, which acts as a constant cleansing agent and dissolves stinky substances in food and drink.

    Sugarless gum. Chewing gum loosens food and dead cells from the teeth, gums, and tongue and fosters saliva production.

    Vankevich says sugar-free gum sweetened with xylitol is particularly effective for fighting bad breath because xylitol inhibits mouth bacteria.

    To get the full effect of chewing xylitol-sweetened gum, munch it for at least five minutes after meals, Mallonee recommends.

    1 | 2 | 3

    How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

    Number of Days Per Week I Floss

    Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


    or
    Answer:
    Never
    (0)
    Good
    (1-3)
    Better
    (4-6)
    Best
    (7)

    You are currently

    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

    Start Over

    Step:  of 

    Today on WebMD

    close up of woman sticking out tongue
    Sores, discoloration, bumps and more.
    toothbrushes
    10 secrets to a brighter smile.
     
    Veneer smile
    Before and after.
    Woman checking her bite in mirror
    Why dental care is important.
     

    Woman dissatisfied with granola bar
    Slideshow
    woman with jaw pain
    Quiz
     
    eroded front teeth
    Slideshow
    brushing teeth
    Video
     

    Variety shades of tea
    Slideshow
    mouth and dental instruments
    Article
     
    Closeup of a happy young guy brushing his teeth
    Tool
    womans smile
    Video