There’s nothing quite like the thrill of getting close to someone you adore, breathing the same air, leaning in for a kiss. When we dream about a kiss, we tend to imagine sweet pleasant scents in the air to match the sweet pleasant imagery we’ve conjured up. Fresh, sweet breath is pretty much a prerequisite when imagining a perfect kiss. More than just kissing, real or imagined, pretty much all human interactions are a little more pleasant when everyone involved has pleasant breath. Bad breath is the antithesis of a benefit for living in and interacting with society at large.
Scrubbing your breath clean might seem like the sole domain of chemical washes and oral care products specifically aimed at reducing bad-breath small. It’s way too easy to think of food as causing bad breath. We’ve all likely run into the unpleasant phenomenon known as garlic breath. But, did you know there are some foods that can actually help reduce the bad breath smell and/or improve good breath smells?
Yogurt is marketed these days as having numerous health benefits. It’s believed to be good for digestive health; it’s sometimes touted as part of a weight-loss solution. It’s also high in calcium, which may help strengthen tooth enamel. In addition to all the other dietary claims to fame, it appears that yogurt can help clean up bad breath, too. According to a study done in Japan, eating about 3 ounces of sugarless (plain) yogurt daily reduces the number of volatile sulfur compounds in people’s mouths. Those volatile sulfur compounds are produced by bacteria and cause breath to smell unpleasant. Interestingly enough, this study also noted a decrease in plaque and gingivitis among people who also saw improved breath from consuming plain yogurt.
When considering a yogurt regimen, plain yogurt is helpful. Sugar-sweetened yogurt is a different matter, of course. Flavored yogurts generally contain large, unhealthy amounts of refined and added sugars, the health risks of which far outweigh any potential benefits from the yogurt’s live and active cultures.
Green tea is more than just a pleasant and relaxing beverage for an afternoon break. Green tea has also been shown to reduce the number of volatile sulfur compounds in the mouth. The polyphenols in green tea are thought to work both as antimicrobial agents and as detergents, cleaning the mouth and reducing the potential for bad breath.
As with yogurt, it’s important to remember that adding sugar to the tea would counteract any potential health benefits for your mouth and teeth. If you are drinking green tea for your oral health, enjoy its natural sweetness without added sugars. Ideally, add it to the end of your meal, both for its breath-freshening effects and to avoid putting additional pH stress on your mouth from eating and drinking outside mealtimes.
How many times have we heard the old saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? It turns out the a more apt saying might just be “An apple a day helps keep bad breath at bay.” Like tea, apples contain polyphenols which act as detergents and anti-microbial agents. Apples have shown promise in reducing unpleasant breath associated with eating raw garlic. Additionally, apples have active enzymes that may help further increase their bad breath fighting powers. Apples also have high amounts of fiber which require a large amount of chewing, which stimulates saliva production. A well-hydrated mouth is better able to maintain a healthy balance, and a balanced mouth is less likely to have oral health issues, including being less likely to have bad breath.
As with other foods, eating apples outside mealtimes increases the risks of developing caries disease. As a further reason to eat apples with meals, the studies that have shown apples can work to fight garlic breath have looked at eating apples together with the garlic, not separated from eating garlic.
You may not think of water as a food, and you may not be sure it’s the right call to fight bad breath, but water is the safest possible food choice to fight bad breath. Plain water can be consumed all day without increasing the risk of developing caries. Dry mouth is a major risk factor for a number of oral health issues, not the least of which is bad breath. Keeping your mouth hydrated can protect you from caries disease, all while cutting through bad breath.
If you find you suffer from dry mouth even when sipping water all day, consider treating your dry mouth by adding a hydrating mouth spray or chewing a xylitol gum to hydrate and stimulate your natural saliva production.
At the end of the day, what you eat can make a big difference for your breath, either for the better or for the worse. It’s best to focus on your oral health and eat food that will support great oral health.