Bad Breath and Ways to Eliminate it

We’ve all grown up with old wives tales to the tune that eating garlic and onions will make your breath smell, but there’s probably a lot more going on to give you bad breath than just one or two foods.

Chronic bad breath is known as Halitosis and is mostly caused by sulphur-producing bacteria that generally live on the surface of the tongue and in the throat.

For some people, bad breath can be genetic, but for others, it could be part of your daily routine that you’re not even realising—like regularly eating certain foods that aren’t typically known for their breath-ruining skills.

If you’re not sure exactly if you have it, the standard features include;

  • A white coating on the tongue especially at the back of the tongue
  • Dry mouth
  • Build up around teeth
  • Post-nasal drip, or mucous
  • Morning bad breath and a burning tongue
  • Thick saliva and a constant need to clear your throat
  • Constant sour, bitter metallic taste

If you’re brushing your teeth regularly, using mouthwash and even chewing on breath mints and still have bad breath it could be more to do with other foods you’re eating, medications you’re taking and other medical conditions.

Apart from the obvious garlic and onions, there’s a whole host of foods that could be affecting your breath.

Here are 7 surprising foods that could be causing bad breath

  1. Citrus Fruit

We’re constantly told to eat more fruit, but bacteria love acid and if you’re prone to acid reflux, eating fruits high in acid could cause odour due to the acids flowing back up your throat.

  • Protein

Eating too much protein leads to the body producing ammonia while breaking it down during the digestive process. The odour can escape through your mouth and remain on your tongue, causing bad breath.

  • Canned Fish

Not all fish is bad for your breath, and fresh fish is highly recommended for a well-balanced diet. But canned fish like tuna and salmon has a compound called trimethylamines which gives it that ‘fishy’ smell. If you like eating canned fish, try and make sure you mix it with lemon or vinegar to help eliminate the odour.

  • Cheese

While it’s recommended to eat cheese for its plentiful calcium benefits for teeth, cheese contains amino acids that react with oral bacteria which gives off odours. If you can’t brush after every meal, try washing your teeth with plenty of water which will help remove away bacteria lingering in your mouth.

  • Pasta sauce

We all love our pasta and pasta sauces, but just like citrus fruits, tomatoes are rich in acid and can build up in the mouth and produce odour. While you’re eating, drink plenty of water to keep flushing the acids away from your mouth.

  • Peanut butter

Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein, but because it’s very thick in consistency and gluggy, it’s difficult for saliva to break the proteins down once they’re in your mouth. Bacteria thrive on protein, and peanut butter can remain trapped on your tongue and your teeth a lot longer than thinner textured foods. The longer food is stuck in your teeth and on your tongue, the more time the protein has to produce odour.

  • Coffee

Coffee has a dehydrating effect on the mouth, which reduces saliva flow and allows foul-smelling bacteria to not only grow but linger longer.

For every cup of coffee you drink, it’s a good idea to drink two glasses of water to replenish liquids.  While coffee can be a diuretic and can increase urination frequency, it’s not going to dehydrate you unless you drink a large amount of coffee in a day – over 5 cups. Still, drinking water can help hydration and wash away odours from the mouth.

Other top reasons for breath odour include:


Besides food, smoking causes mouth odour. Besides the actual smell of smoke lingering on your breath, smoke particles can remain on your hair, clothing and fingers.

Poor dental hygiene

While most of us realise how important it is to brush and floss regularly for healthy gums and teeth, your tongue could be the culprit producing bad breath. Brushing your tongue can be something that can help as bacteria often gets trapped on the tongue. Scraping is an effective technique to remove unwanted bacteria.

Dry mouth

A medical condition called xerostomia or dry mouth can also contribute to bad breath. It can cause problems with your salivary glands and can often be the reason for ‘morning breath’. Some medications can also contribute to having a dry mouth.

Tooth decay and gum disease

Tooth decay and gum disease have very distinctive smells caused by several different types of bacteria that could be growing insides cavities, or underneath the gum line. If you have a constant metallic taste in your mouth or an acidic taste, it’s probably a good idea to have your gums checked by a dentist.

If you’re worried about bad breath and what could be causing it, took to one of our friendly staff at Withers Dental today!

Dr Withers

Article by Dr Andrew Withers

Dr Andrew Withers is a proud third generation dentist. His grandfather Hubert Withers and father John Withers practised in the Toowoomba QLD area for many years.

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