10 Surprising Causes of Bad Breath

Jacqueline Ho | Apr 25th 2014

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If you have bad breath and can’t figure out why, one of these causes may be the culprit.

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Not enough fruits and veggies

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Eating crunchy, fresh fruits and vegetables help increase saliva production and wash away odor-causing bacteria from the teeth, tongue and gums. Snacking on fresh produce is also helpful because when the stomach is empty, acids start to build up and that can cause bad breath. Among the best fruits and vegetables for keeping your breath fresh are apples, citrus fruits, carrots and celery.

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Your favorite gum

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If your breath is somewhat foul, your first instinct might be to reach for a piece of gum. But some research suggests that sugar-free gum may be more effective than other types when it comes to masking odors. Most sugar-free gum contains xylitol, which acts as a sweetener and also can inhibit mouth bacteria.

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You’re lactose intolerant

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If you don’t like or can’t eat dairy, you might be more at risk for bad breath. Eating yogurt with probiotics has been shown to help reduce bad breath by lowering the levels of odor-causing sulfur compounds.

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Dry mouth

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Ever wonder why some people have bad breath in the morning? When we sleep, we produce less saliva than we do while we’re awake. Saliva is important because it contains oxygen, which deters bacteria growth and it is a natural antibacterial that helps wash away food particles—a primary cause of bad breath. Help yourself by drinking plenty of water during the day.

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Flavorless food

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Adding herbs to your food not only enhances the flavor, but it also can help fight bad breath. Effective herbs include parsley, coriander, spearmint, tarragon, rosemary, cardamom and eucalyptus. Chlorophyll—found in many herbs—is known as a breath deodorizer. These herbs can also be added to juices or smoothies or be used to brew tea.

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Food with too much flavor

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Diet plays a big role when it comes to your breath. Garlic and onions are particularly notorious for causing bad breath—they both contain sulfur compounds that linger in the mouth, are absorbed into the bloodstream and are expelled when you exhale. Meat can also increase the risk of bad breath since the particles often collect at the gumline and are especially conducive to reproducing bacteria.

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A low-carb diet

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If you’ve adopted a high-protein, low-carb diet to lose weight, it may not be great for your breath. These diets cause your body to burn stored fats instead of carbs for fuel. That can lead to a condition called ketosis, in which foul odors are released through your breath.

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Too much coffee

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Coffee can dry out the mouth, which causes bacteria to thrive on the tongue, gums, teeth and cheeks. Bacteria growth is encouraged even more by the addition of milk or cream. Drinking plenty of water before, during and after consuming coffee can help neutralize odors.

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Too much partying

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When we consume alcohol, our bodies try to convert it to a less harmful substance. Through metabolism most of the alcohol is converted into acetic acid, which has a pungent smell. The chemicals found in cigarettes stick to the teeth and build up in the mouth, which can lead to persistent bad breath.

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You hate the dentist

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Dentists are able to detect and treat diseases, dry mouth and any other problems that may be the cause of bad breath. It is recommended for most people to see a dentist at least twice a year.