Everybody occasionally perceives a relationship between food and halitosis: some foods just seem to stay on the breath long after they’ve been eaten and not always in a pleasant way: garlic, onions, curry dishes, strong cheeses, coffee, and alcohol are all common examples. Some of these foods, like garlic, hang around because of certain compounds they contain; others just have a strong smell and tend to linger while we digest them unless we take special measures. Other foods, however, impact the breath in more complicated ways.
In a broader sense, foods that cause halitosis potentially include high protein foods, sweet foods, and acidic foods-and it has nothing to do with the way they smell. In all cases, the connection is that the substance either provides food for the oral bacteria that produce bad breath, or it provides an environment that makes it easy for those bacteria to live and reproduce. For some people, the relationship between a certain food and halitosis may be so strong that it’s better to avoid that food altogether.
Protein foods include eggs, dairy products, red meat, poultry products, fish and seafood, nuts, dried beans, and a few others. Among these, the dairy products are notorious for causing bad breath, while beef, chicken, and fish are sometimes suspected as well. The association between other types of protein food and halitosis is not as strong so it might be wise to lean towards these other choices. Remember that the foods that cause halitosis may well be different for different people, so finding the culprit may be case of trial and error.
Sugar is a simpler matter. Sweet foods that cause halitosis usually contain glucose or another sugar, which provides food energy to bacteria just as it does to humans. We all know that sugar is a problem for healthy teeth; it’s also a problem for healthy breath, weight control, blood sugar levels and other health issues. It’s just better to avoid it as much as possible. If you must indulge in sweet food and halitosis is a concern, brush your teeth and rinse your mouth as soon as possible and/or investigate artificial sweeteners (artificial sweeteners have health concerns too, so make informed choices).
Acid food and halitosis goes together because the oral bacteria that produce breath odors thrive in an acid environment. Increasing the acidity of your mouth by taking in acid foods or liquids can encourage bacteria to multiply, thereby increasing the odor. Coffee, tomato juice, citrus juices, and pineapple juice are all recognized as potential foods that cause halitosis. It’s a shame, because people tend to like acid food and beverages, while neutral and alkaline foods have a tendency to taste bland. Again, if you can’t give up acid foods, practice regular and careful oral hygiene so that the pH of your mouth can return to normal quickly after eating and drinking.