These 3 Drinks Are Not Your Breath's Best Friends

You may want to rethink your next cup of coffee.

Everyone knows that some foods like garlic and onions can cause a stink bomb in your mouth, but certain drinks are especially bad when it comes to your breath.  Have you ever conversed with friends or colleagues and noticed them doing a hard lean-away? Unfortunately, your breath may be to blame–and it might be time to reconsider your drink choices.

Taming bad breath, also called halitosis, includes staying hydrated–but not all liquids are created equal. Some drinks feed the bacteria that produce volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that intensify smelly breath. 

Here's what you need to know about the worst drinks for your breath, plus one that can make your breath smell better.

What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath usually stems from one of three things, explained Gigi Meinecke, DMD, a dentist with the Academy of General Dentistry based in Potomac, Md.:

The mouth is home to tons of bacteria that survive on the food you eat. When these bacteria digest your meals, they produce stinky VSCs, which are, in turn, responsible for less-than-ideal breath. According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, that's because VSCs that live on your tongue can interact with the drinks that you enjoy, emitting smelly breath.


Millions of people may love it, but most of us aren't so crazy about one unfortunate side effect: Coffee breath. Coffee itself is high in offensive sulfur, which contributes to stinky breath. If you thought swapping in tea was the answer, Health's contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, said to think again.

"Too much caffeine can dry out your mouth, which increases odor because saliva helps wash away bacteria and food particles that cause bad breath," explained Sass.


In an April 2018 study published in the journal Microbiome, researchers examined the bacterial profiles of spit samples from more than 1,000 healthy volunteers between the ages of 55 and 84. 

The researchers found a higher concentration of "bad" bacteria linked to gum disease (a bad breath trigger) in volunteers who reported drinking alcohol. Bacterial differences between light drinkers and heavy drinkers increased with the amount of alcohol consumed, with heavy drinkers having the most "bad" bacteria.

On top of altering the bacteria in your mouth, "Alcohol can also trigger acid reflux, which causes stomach acid to creep up into the throat, and that acid has an odor," added Sass.

Carbonated Beverages

The acid that gives sodas and other bubbly beverages their fizz is another major player in bad breath development. Dr. Meinecke advised that acid dries out your mouth, allowing bacteria and food particles to linger, ultimately causing bad breath.

What To Drink To Fight Bad Breath

Good old water is your best option. Getting into the habit of drinking a glass of water after every meal can help tame lousy breath.

"This can help wash away food particles that can contribute to bad breath," explained Sass.

Additionally, Dr. Meinecke explained that saliva is 99% water, so staying hydrated ensures you create plenty of the stuff needed to keep your mouth clean and fresh. Water is also odorless and doesn't provide anything for bacteria to feed on, meaning it can't produce odorous VSCs. 

"As you drink water, it cleans off your tongue where those bacteria and their VSCs are trapped," Dr. Meinecke said.

And if water is too boring for you, spice it up by adding some mint leaves for a burst of freshness. For an even tastier option, Dr. Meinecke recommended making an infusion. 

"Cut up a slice of watermelon, and put it in a jar with some basil leaves. Fill the jar with water, and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours," said Dr. Meinecke.


If your bad breath does not go away after cutting down on those drinks, it may also be a sign of an infection or periodontal disease (a symptom of gum disease). According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, other symptoms of periodontal disease include:

  • Red gums that are swollen or tender
  • Gums that bleed after brushing or flossing your teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Altered jaw alignment 

 It's essential to visit your dentist regularly to maintain your dental health.

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