Halitosis Food Causes

Chronic bad breath, medically referred to as halitosis, is an embarrassing condition that can be caused by several different factors, including:

  • certain foods
  • dry mouth
  • improper oral hygiene
  • smoking
  • the presence of certain diseases and conditions, such as kidney disorders and diabetes.

While you can’t control all of the causes of bad breath, you can take measures to control some halitosis causes, such as food-related causes.

Foods to Avoid

Garlic and onions are two of the primary foods that people associate with bad breath. As the body breaks down both of these pungent foods, it produces sulfur compounds called Mercaptans. These compounds are ultimately transferred to your lungs where the sulfur smell is expelled from your body when you breathe out.

Unfortunately, only time can truly eliminate odors that are caused by sulfur compounds. Although mouthwashes and brushing will temporarily hide the odors, they will not completely disappear until the foods you have eaten run their cycle through your body.

In addition to onions and garlic, other food categories that can cause halitosis include foods that:

  • cause dry mouth: Dry mouth occurs when your body significantly slows down or altogether stops producing saliva. Saliva is a natural cleanser your body produces and uses to remove bacteria that can cause halitosis. Alcohol and oily foods are examples of food products that cause dry mouth.
  • contain dense proteins: Dairy products, such as milk, cheese and ice cream, contain proteins that coat your throat and tongue, feeding bacteria that can turn into sulfur compounds and, therefore, cause bad breath.
  • with high acidic content: Coffee (both regular and decaffeinated), orange juice and tomatoes are all types of food with a high acid content that will change the acidity levels of your mouth. As your mouth becomes more and more acidic, it comes closer and closer to being an ideal environment for bacterial reproduction.
  • with high sugar content: Not only do bacteria love to use sugars to create sulfur compounds, but some bacteria will use sugars to make the glycan strands, which lead to plaque deposits on your teeth and gums. Candy, pastries and sodas are examples of foods that are high in sugar.

Other Bad Breath Causes

Along with certain food products, other consumables, such as cigarettes and chewing tobacco, can also contribute to bad breath. As a person chews tobacco or smokes a cigarette, the tobacco products come into contact with and stain your teeth, tongue and gums. Similarly, tobacco can lead to dry mouth, which is one of the primary ways in which a person can develop halitosis.

Preventing and Treating Halitosis

If you think you suffer from chronic bad breath, keep a day-to-day log that includes the following information:

  • any alcohol you consume
  • how often you brush and floss your teeth
  • how often you chew gum
  • how often you suffer from dry mouth
  • how often you use mouthwash
  • the types of foods that you eat
  • whether or not you smoke.

Noting the presence and frequency of the above factors can help you and/or your doctor identify any relationship between the foods you eat and your halitosis. You can then either reduce or eliminate these foods from your diet to treat your chronic bad breath.

With halitosis, the best defense is the best offense. Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day and more frequently if you have eaten foods from one of the bad food categories. Floss once a day and schedule regular checkups with your dentist.

Remember that chronic halitosis can be a symptom of other diseases. If your bad breath persists, see your doctor for further consultation.


American Dental Association (n.d.). Bad Breath (Halitosis) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Retrieved December 12, 2007, from the ADA Web site: http://www.ada.org/public/topics/bad_breath_faq.asp.

American Dental Association (n.d.). Bad Breath (Halitosis) Overview. Retrieved December 12, 2007, from the ADA Web site: http://www.ada.org/public/topics/bad_breath.asp.