a man checking to see if he has bad breath

Q. I have a problem with terrible bad breath after eating anything with dairy in it, and also anything with sugar. I have had this problem since my early twenties and am now in my sixties.
My husband says it is so bad that he can sometimes smell it from his side of our king-size bed. This is right after brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash before bedtime.
If I stay away from sugar and dairy, the smell goes away completely after four or five days. It starts again within 30 to 45 minutes of eating the offending foods.
We eat out frequently with our daughter and son-in-law, but it is very difficult to avoid problem foods when we do. Even when I explain it to the waiter, I still sometimes find dairy or sugar in my food. I would be blessed to find a cure. Otherwise, I’m pretty much limited to meat and vegetables and I get tired of that after a while.

A. You are the third person who has told us that dairy products such as milk or ice cream cause them bad breath. We could find no research in the medical literature that addresses this symptom, but we are beginning to believe that it might be more widespread than doctors recognize.
One woman discovered that Lactaid (lactase enzyme pills) solved her problem by breaking down milk sugar in dairy products. Intolerance to milk sugar (lactose) is fairly common, though the usual symptoms reported are bloating, gas and diarrhea rather than bad breath.
The difficulty with sugar is trickier to solve. Table sugar is a combination of glucose and fructose. Fewer people seem to have trouble digesting these simple sugars, so there are no enzyme pills to take. If sugar is contributing to your halitosis, avoidance really is the best strategy. We recognize that this is much easier said than done because sugar is in many processed foods.

Join Over 56,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

Each week we send two free email newsletters with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies and a preview of our award-winning radio show. Join our mailing list and get the information you need to make confident choices about your health.

  1. MS

    I could just cry reading these comments. I have suspected dairy & sugar as culprits for my bad breath for several months now. But, this is the first time that I’ve had those suspicions validated. I’m in my 50’s and like the person posting this question, have been suffering since my 20’s. I started to piece together dairy & sugar as a combined threat when I realized that dairy intake was affecting the incidence of post nasal drip for me and later, a comment made by a friend about sugar causing inflammation and bacteria feeding upon the excessive mucous. I’ve been told by many health professionals that it is nearly impossible to reach the areas far back in the tongue that may be causing the bad breath.
    I had a lesion on my tongue last year which was precancerous and, unfortunately, using baking soda-type rinses seems to inflame the spot in which the lesion was removed.
    My life is dramatically limited socially by this terrible affliction. But, I had lost hope that any researcher was interested in looking at this problem seriously.
    Now, though, I plan to limit dairy and sugar and see what happens.
    Thanks to everyone for their comments.


    I suffered from BB since 20 years and tried every thing nothing worked except the following:

    1. Brush 3 times but I use soap instead of toothpaste.
    2. Brush teeth then clean tongue with glyciren then brush teet and tongue with soap again.
    3. gargle with baking soda and lemon juice

    Result clean tongue and BB is gone
    Please if you try let me know

    • Scott

      I had a couple of questions on this interesting method…
      What type of soap? How long have you been using this method? And how have you validated your BB is gone?

  3. cpmt

    Does anyone knows which foods contain oxalates ? they told me to remove from my diet and when I google it only gave me a list of 3 veggies. Thank you for any help.

  4. Aw

    Hi can you please elaborate on what foods you can eat? Maybe give some ideas of breakfast lunch and dinner. Thanks so much!!!

  5. jen

    Hello All! I can’t say enough how glad to know I am not alone! My BB does indeed get worse from dairy and sugar. I do believe that aside from an allergy…for some it may be candida yeast imbalance. I’ve toyed with trying to strictly follow the plan but had not been resolved enough..at 36 I’ve suffered enough embarrassment and isolation…
    I will follow the advice given here and start with dairy and sugar elimination and step it down from there. Somehow just knowing I’m not crazy or alone makes me willing to fight. My PCP didn’t even take me seriously. I switched dentists frequently because they all complimented my oral health.
    My gastro even thought I was silly and just prescribed meds for my digestion/constipation issues. We are indeed what we eat and what we eat in the typical American diet is junk and more junk disguised as healthy food. Many prayers for those of us suffering from this isolating affliction. May we all get healthy and smell like a warm summer day!

  6. CW

    My husband suffers from really bad breath, despite brushing and scraping his tongue frequently. Our church did a modified Daniels Fast for 21 days and in short, we eliminated dairy, red meat, all sugars *excluding fruit* (including those found in packaged/processed foods), processed foods, and fried foods. Our diet consisted of fruits, fish (that weren’t “bottom crawlers” like shrimp, catfish, etc) and vegetables (fresh or canned *as long as it didn’t contain additives/preservatives, etc), and water.
    We found that following this diet, his breath didn’t stink AT ALL!! I am simply AMAZED that the source of his bad breath (and mine) was the foods that we were eating!! It didn’t happen overnight – took about 2 weeks for our bodies to rid itself of the toxins. Our fast is over, but we both intend to maintain this diet indefinitely. In addition to no longer having bad breath, we just FEEL BETTER!

  7. Ram

    I used to have this problem, whenever I drink coffee with milk and sugar, and sit with my closed for some time, then my bad breath kicks in.
    Then I starting carrying a tongue cleaner with me, so after the coffee or eating something sweet , I go and scrape my tongue and if I can I will also gargle my mouth with salt water, the bad breath is gone…
    I read in one of the yoga practices, after you brush your teeth in the morning, in a luke warm water add some salt and potassium alum and gargle looking up towards ceiling and making khwg khwg sound…and spit it out.
    Then mix lime in a luke warm water with one tbsp honey and drink it, first in the morning, this will also help in reducing weight and aids digestion, it has so many health benefits.
    Then continue with your life….

What Do You Think?

Share your thoughts with others, but be mindful of protecting your own and others' privacy. Not all comments will be posted. Advice from web visitors is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. In posting a comment, you agree to our commenting policy and website terms and conditions.