Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Oral Care

Font Size

Bad Breath: Good and Bad Foods

A combination of diet and dental hygiene is the best defense against bad breath.

Why Your Breath Gets Stinky

The most common cause of bad breath isn't a smelly food. It's bacteria in your mouth.

“The microbes that reside in your mouth feast on food particles and dead cells, producing sulfur compounds that cause halitosis,” Harper Mallonee says.

Brush your teeth twice a day, and floss once to remove the debris that results in bad breath, the American Dental Association advises. 

“It’s also important to clean your tongue,” says Vankevich.

Masking mouth bacteria with rinses is a temporary solution to bad breath, one that Vankevich discourages. Over-the-counter rinses contain often alcohol, which dries out mouth tissues, decreases saliva production, and worsens bad breath in the long run.

Bad Breath Can Signal Medical Conditions

If your dental hygiene and your diet are in order, but your halitosis won't quit, it may be time to consult a doctor or dentist.

Bad breath can result from certain health conditions.

Blocked sinus passages and post-nasal drip may result in bad breath that will eventually pass.  But Vankevich warns that persistent halitosis can be a sign of something bigger.

Periodontal disease, a serious inflammation of the gums that can cause tooth and bone damage, also causes bad breath. Certain lung conditions, kidney and liver disease, chronic irritation of the stomach and esophagus, and autoimmune disorders, such as Sjogren's syndrome, may lead to halitosis.

Chronically dry mouth, called xerostomia, contributes to oral microbial growth. Dry mouth may be caused by various medications, salivary gland problems, or continuously breathing through the mouth.

Very-low-calorie diets and high-protein eating plans promote rapid breakdown of body fat, resulting in ketoacidosis, a condition that may also be present in uncontrolled diabetes.  Ketoacidosis gives breath a fruity smell.

If, despite your best efforts to control halitosis, you still suffer from it, see your doctor or dentist to rule out underlying disorders.

1|2
Reviewed on April 16, 2010

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