Quick: How's your breath? If it's not exactly ready for a close-up, you might need to do more than just lay off the garlic and onions on your next date. These supposedly harmless (or even minty-fresh) foods can turn your mouth into a straight-up stink pit.
Unfortunately, if you've had enough drinks for your breath to really be offensive, you're probably too drunk to care. And we aren't talking about just "having alcohol on your breath." As you probably already know (thanks to head-splitting hangovers), alcohol is a diuretic. But it sucks the water from not only your brain and body but from your mouth, too, which stunts your saliva production, says cosmetic dentist Jessica Emery, D.M.D., owner of Sugar Fix Dental Loft Chicago. Unfortunately, since saliva is full of natural enzymes that break down and wash away smelly bacteria, one too many sips can actually worsen your breath, she says. Now you have one more reason to drink water between rounds.
If commercials are to be believed, a mint is all that stands between you and the best makeout session of your life. But as soon as that menthol wears off, your breath could quickly take a turn for the even-worse-than-before. "Many brand-name mints used to mask bad breath could actually be doing more harm than good," Emery says. Most contain sugar, a.k.a. food for bacteria, which give off noxious sulfur compounds while they eat away at it. When in doubt, pop a sugar-free mint. They don't pack the same effect and still only mask any bad breath you've got going on, but they don't make it worse, either.
A steak every now and then won't give you gnarly breath, but if your protein consumption is off the charts, you could have a problem, Emery says. When your body gets more protein than it needs (learn how much protein is too much), it responds by breaking it down into carbohydrates for immediate fuel. One of the by-products of that process is ammonia, which can escape through your mouth—meaning each of your exhales will smell eerily like cat pee.
As far as your breath is concerned, you might as well be chomping on saltwater taffy. Dried fruit is not only packed with bacteria-promoting sugar (remember: each dried apricot has as much sugar as an entire fruit) but also comes loaded with non-soluble cellulose fiber, binding and trapping said sugars in and between your teeth, Emery says. If you like to snack on dried fruit, just make sure you brush and floss before the bacteria begins festering.
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