If you suffer from diabetes, tonsil infections or stomach issues, for example, you might experience bad breath. Simultaneously, by far not all cases of an unflattering breath are health-related, and here are 9 common reasons you might be experiencing bad breath and how to deal with it.
1. Peanut Butter
Nothing can compare to a good old peanut butter and jelly sandwich: not only is it packed full of proteins and plant-based fatty acids, it’s also delicious. However, peanut butter has a very sticky consistency, which makes it stick to the gums and the teeth for hours.
At the same time, peanut butter, especially with the addition of jelly, but also on its own, is often very high in sugar, so, by sticking around in your mouth, it provides food for the bacteria and causes dental and gum problems, and a smelly breath. That’s why it is important to brush your teeth after eating any foods that contain peanut butter.
2. A High Protein Diet
Proteins are digested differently to other nutrients, with the body producing ammonia as a side product of the digestive process. Usually, ammonia is converted into urea and excreted from the body through urine.
If we consume too much protein, the body cannot get rid of all the ammonia and it builds up in the body, making our mouth smell like you guessed what, among other things. This unpleasant smell can linger on even after brushing your teeth, but it can be canceled out by eating zinc-rich plant foods, such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, and chickpeas.
3. Not Drinking Enough Water
A dehydrated body cannot produce enough saliva, which is essential for the maintenance of a healthy and smell-free mouth cavity, as it envelops the mouth and throat and cleans them. When not enough saliva is produced, be it as a result of dehydration or any other health condition, bacteria start multiplying in your mouth cavity, which often causes bad breath.
If you suspect that your mouth is dry because you’re dehydrated, simply drink more water. In other cases, you will have to address the underlying health condition to regain a fresh breath.
4. Citrus Fruit
Although you might think of lemons and other citrus fruit as broadly antibacterial, some bacteria, particularly the odor-causing kind, thrive in acidic environments. And since most citrus fruits are also rich in sugar, you’re creating the perfect environment for the bacteria in your mouth by eating or drinking too much citrus.
To prevent this from happening, drink less juice containing citrus and rinse your mouth with water after eating citrus fruit.
Drinking alcohol can also upset the balance between the good and the bad bacteria in your mouth. Even though an occasional drink will most likely not cause any long-term effects, a large 2018 study conducted in the U.S. found that people who drink regularly have significantly more bad bacteria in their mouth cavity than non-drinkers.
Needless to say, this is dangerous and could not only bad breath but also chronic infections.
6. Food Stuck in the Mouth
Everyone should floss at least once a day to get rid of the food particles that get stuck between the teeth, but your teeth aren’t the only place in your mouth that can be affected by small and stubborn food particles. Food can get stuck in the tonsils, too, especially after a flu or sore throat when they get inflamed.
The reason for this is that tonsils actually have naturally-occurring crevices called crypts, which usually help the immune system fight off different environmental dangers by increasing the contact surface of the tonsils. At the same time, food can become stuck in these crypts and medical attention is usually necessary to dislodge these food particles.
7. Tomato Sauce
Similarly to citrus fruit, tomatoes are actually quite acidic, which can promote the growth of those bad bacteria and cause smelly breath. This is especially true about tomato sauces (ketchup, marinara sauce, soups, etc.) and tomato juice that are highly-concentrated and have added vinegar, so they contain a lot more acids than one or two fresh tomatoes.
Another reason why tomato sauce and juice might cause bad breath is because they actually cause acid reflux, which can increase the acidity in your mouth even more. It’s best to sip on some water while eating foods that contain tomato sauce to prevent acid reflux and wash away the acidity.
8. Canned Fish
After eating canned fish, you might experience a fishy smell lingering in your mouth. This is because canned fish varieties contain a lot more trimethylamines compared to fresh fish, as canned fish had plenty of time to oxidize while it was in the tin. These compounds are the culprits behind the fishy smell, and they are difficult to get rid of because they don’t bind well with water on their own.
A splash of lemon juice or vinegar can help them bind with liquids, so add a little lemon to the canned fish and drink some water after eating it to combat the unpleasant smell.
9. Coffee Drinks and Dairy
Researchers at Tel Aviv University determined that it’s not coffee per se that causes that unpleasant mouth taste and smell, but rather the milk added to it. In fact, black coffee can have the opposite effect, making your breath fresher. When it is part of a cappuccino or any other drink containing milk, however, it may contribute to the problem, as it dries out the mouth, increasing the likelihood of developing bad breath.
Milk and dairy products, in turn, are known to cause bad breath, as they contain amino acids, which create sulfur when consumed by the bacteria that live in the mouth. Sulfur, as you may know, has a smell of rotten eggs, so it is to blame for the sour taste and smell in your mouth. To get rid of the smell, it's best to brush your teeth, but simply rinse your mouth with water also helps.