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3 Foods That Cause Bad Breath and Tips to Fight It

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Bad breath doesn't have to be a problem. Some medical conditions will cause bad breath, so it's not always food or hygiene-related, but many times it is best to be aware of the food you eat that may impact your breath. There are many ways to combat it and still enjoy the foods you love. Here are some foods that can cause bad breath and our tips for freshening up after consuming them.

Why Do Some Foods Cause Bad Breath?

All foods can impact your breath. When we eat, food debris can stick to our teeth and tongue, providing a nice meal for the bacteria in our mouth. When bacteria feed on food, especially carbohydrates, they produce acids that give off an odor. On top of mouth bacteria, strong-smelling foods also can cause bad breath when they enter the bloodstream. But, you don't have to avoid flavorful foods because they affect your breath. There are products you can use and habits you can adopt to freshen your breath after a meal.

Garlic, Onions, and Spicy Foods

Lots of spicy foods, including chiles, peppers, and spices, can give you bad breath. Garlic and onions also can stick around long after you finish the meal. When you digest garlic and onions, their chemicals enter your bloodstream, travel to your lungs, and you breathe them out!

Tip: Promptly chew sugar-free gum or brush your teeth after eating spicy or aromatic meals to help treat bad breath while eating the foods you love.

Coffee and Alcoholic Beverages

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can cause dry mouth. Dry mouth does happen while we sleep, leading to "morning breath." But when you consume drinks that dry out your mouth, you can have morning breath any time of the day.

Tip: Make it a habit to drink water before and after enjoying caffeinated or alcoholic beverages to help reduce dry mouth and freshen breath.

Tuna and Other Fish

Tuna and other fish are filling, high in protein, and delicious! However, tuna and other canned fish have a specific "fishy" odor. According to the American Society of Nutrition, trimethylamine (TMA) causes this odor that can stick around long after your meal.

Tip: Splash lemon or vinegar onto fish before eating. Acidic ingredients can help TMA bind to water, reducing its potency. Or, chew some sugar-free gum and brushing your teeth after eating may also help with the odor.

How to Fight Bad Breath

Remember, a proper oral care routine can help your breath smell fresh, even if you indulge in these aromatic foods and beverages. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day or after meals will help remove food debris and bacteria. Cleaning between your teeth with floss, water flossers, or interdental brushes and rinsing with a mouthwash or antiseptic mouthrinse also help ensure you have fresh breath. Further, you can eat foods that fight bad breath. According to the University of Michigan, eating a low-fat diet with lots of fruits and vegetables can help you breathe easy.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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