Got bad breath? Well, you may want to have a look at your diet. Bad breath can be the result of tooth decay and gum disease, but there are also foods and eating habits that can contribute to lingering stink.
According to Cape Town dietitian and spokesperson for the Association of Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), Kelly Scholtz, stinking breath may also be linked to what we eat.
Eastern Cape dentist and farmer Dr Pieter Prinsloo agrees, and says that most people cannot imagine that bad breath could also be related to gut health, but it is. “[Your gut] causes a lot of issues – also with bad breath. We don’t think it [is], but it is there,” he says.
Take care of your teeth
Symptoms of bad breath include an unpleasant odour or taste in the mouth, dry mouth or white coating on the tongue.
“If there are bad, rotting teeth obviously that can cause the whole mouth to smell bad and also cause halitosis.”
Prinsloo explains that halitosis is chronic bad breath that a mint or mouthwash cannot cure.
The usual suspects
In Prinsloo’s own practice gingivitis is the most common suspect.
“Gingivitis [is] a mouth infection and not necessarily [linked to] bad teeth, but bad gums. The common bacteria that infects it and gives off that smell is called an anaerobic bacteria.
Meanwhile, Scholtz says, “Consuming lots of sugary foods and beverages, particularly those that have a long contact time with the teeth [like] lollipops and very chewy sweets, [are known to trigger bad breath.]”
“Even relatively healthy foods like dried fruit and fruit juice could cause tooth decay if they are eaten very frequently and there is inadequate dental hygiene.”
Foods that are essential for dental health
Eating a generally healthy diet is important for providing all the essential vitamins and minerals that your teeth and gums need to stay healthy.
Make sure you are eating food that are high in calcium like:
- Unsweetened milk
- Fortified milk alternatives like soy milk
“It has been shown in research that eating unsweetened probiotic yoghurt reduced levels of *volatile sulfide compounds, plaque and gingival indices relative to controls.”
Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are also very important sources of essential nutrients.
“Since bad breath is an early symptom of many systemic diseases, it is important to see a doctor and focus on overall health to target ongoing bad breath.”
Foods that trigger bad breath
If you are conscious your breath smells, the first thing you blame is what you might have eaten that day. Garlic, onions and cheeses are usually our first culprits, says Scholtz.
Another thing to consider, is what you are drinking. “Coffee and alcohol can cause bad breath. Being mildly dehydrated and having a dry mouth also causes bad breath, so make sure you are drinking enough water through the day.”
Good oral hygiene after every meal is a sure fire trick to minimise bad breath but crunchy foods like raw carrots, celery, apples and cucumber can freshen up your breath.
“Eating them also helps to dislodge bacteria and other food particles, so if you can’t brush immediately, at least try to end a meal or snack with one of these foods and then remember to brush later.”
Foods that can mask bad breath
Apart from crunchy vegetables and apples, Scholtz says that herbs like parsley and basil can mask bad breath.
“[Parsley and basil] contain *chlorophyll and *polyphenols that neutralise odours and target bacteria.”
She adds that cherries and lettuce have also been known to neutralise the smell of onions and cheese. “Ginger has also been shown to help in breaking down sulfur compounds in the mouth that contribute to bad breath.”
Health For Mzansi: Word of the day
Chlorophyll: According to Healthline, chlorophyll is the chemical that makes plants green, happy and healthy. Chlorophyll also has vitamins, antioxidants and therapeutic properties that have potential to benefit the body.
Polyphenols: Polyphenols are micronutrients that occur in plants naturally. They are usually found in many supplements and are easy to get in your diet from foods like fruits, vegetables, teas and spices.