Halitosis – AKA bad breath – is fun for nobody, especially the people you come in contact with on the regular (may your significant other RIP as you turn toward him or her in the morning).
But wait! Bad breath is a pretty easy fix, especially once you identify the easy-to-overlook culprits and change your habits. First and foremost, you should be brushing two times a day, every day. You can also curb bad breath by avoiding putting potent things in your mouth, including garlic, onions, coffee, and cigarettes. That, we know.
Beyond that, there are a few other surprising culprits of bad breath that you might have overlooked. In an effort to do our part in the world, we spoke to several dentists to get the scoop on bad breath.
"Not enough water leads to dry mouth and instantly causes bad breath," explains NYC-based cosmetic dentist, Dr. Victoria Veytsman. That's one of the reasons why you might have bad breath in the morning—you haven't been drinking water through the night and your mouth has stopped producing saliva. Make sure you drink water throughout the day to prevent dehydration and to consistently "clean out" the mouth with fresh water.
On that note... While sports drinks refuel your electrolytes, they can lead to bad breath. "Stay hydrated, but with water, not acidic drinks," notes NYC cosmetic dentist Dr. Sivan Finkel. He explains that bad breath is caused by high acidity levels in your mouth, so keeping the pH of your mouth neutral will help reduce any offensive odors. "Sports drinks, both regular and diet sodas, and fruit juices are all acidic drinks that will not counteract bad breath like water will."
Interestingly enough, a common cause of bad breath could be the presence of wisdom teeth that need to be removed. "Wisdom teeth and the operculum —the piece of gingiva over wisdom teeth that are partially erupted—trap food and bacteria and can get infected, also contributing to bad breath," explains Dr. Tina Giannacopoulos of Boston Dental.
Not Brushing Your Tongue or Flossing
OK, so this is oral hygiene 101, but people would be surprised at just how much of an impact not flossing or brushing your tongue can have on your breath, says Dr. Giannacopoulos. Not only does flossing keep your gums healthy and prevent cavities from forming, it dislodges food stuck in between your teeth. When food sits, it starts to smell bad. Try a water pick for an even better clean. Additionally, your tongue is a breeding ground for all sorts of smell-inducing bacteria.
We hate to cut into your cheese consumption (heaven bless brie), but cheese could be another stinky breath culprit. "The amino acids in cheese and other dairy products can react with bacteria in your mouth and produce sulfur compounds that can make your breath smell like rotten eggs," explains NY-based cosmetic dentist, Dr. Lana Rozenberg. "People that are lactose intolerant should be especially aware of this."
And the bad news just keeps on coming. Dr. Rozenberg adds that steak causes halitosis, as well. "Red meats are packed with proteins, which are made of amino acids similar to the cheese and dairy products," she says.
Gum disease is a culprit, sure, but other diseases may lead to bad breath, as well. For example, there's gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), "a disorder of the digestive tract whereby acid from the stomach travels back to the esophagus," says Dr. Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe.
When in doubt, consult your dentist and stay on top of your oral hygiene routine.