Holiday halitosis: Here’s how you can prevent it

An expert says eggnog is the number one reason for bad breath during the holiday season. AP Photo/Matthew Mead

Whether it’s annual office parties or festive gatherings with the family, the holidays often mean being in the company of others. Finding yourself in close quarters with others who don’t have the freshest breath can dull anyone’s merry mood.

In this season of giving and receiving, you might want to take steps to ensure bad breath isn’t one of the things you are sharing.

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Social gatherings involving food serve up the potential for bad breath any time of year, but even more so over the holiday season.

‘Bad Breath Guru’ Dr. Harold Katz said the obvious culprits like coffee and garlic aren’t the only things to watch for. He shared some tips to be sure halitosis isn’t part of your holiday presence.

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Katz, a UCLA School of Dentistry graduate who holds a degree in Bacteriology, recently spoke on The Start on 680 CJOB.

What causes bad breath?

Katz said there are three categories of bad-breath-causing categories that party-goers should watch for:

Alcohol – Anything with alcohol in it will dry out your mouth. Katz said saliva has oxygen that protects against bacteria that produces bad breath. With a lack of saliva, you’ll lose your natural ability to keep your breath fresh.

Sugar – Sugar is a problem because it feeds all kinds of bad-breath-causing bacteria. People may opt to crunch on a candy cane to eliminate bad breath, but Katz warns that a minty taste doesn’t always correlate with a minty smell.

Dairy products – Katz said when dairy proteins break down, they can give your breath the odor of rotten eggs or sour milk, so those are items to consume in moderation or avoid altogether.

What’s the number one holiday treat that causes bad breath?


Katz explained that in addition to the two main ingredients being dairy and sugar, a lot of people add alcohol to it as well – meaning the popular holiday concoction is a perfect recipe for bad breath.

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You may also want think twice about enjoying a mug of hot chocolate. Two other holiday treats on Katz’s naughty list are marshmallows and milk chocolate.

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If you plan on indulging a bit this season, Dr. Katz said there are ways to offset the drying affect of alcohol and help combat bad breath.

  1. Drink plenty of water. Avoiding a dry mouth essential for fresh breath.
  2. Brush your tongue. The bacteria that causes bad breath lives in the nooks and crannies of the tongue. Gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush to clean it. Also floss, to get rid of any food particles that may be living between your teeth.
  3. Use mouthwash and toothpastes that do not contain alcohol or detergents. Most commercial mouthwashes have up to 25 per cent alcohol in them. Those will freshen your breath quickly, but dry out your mouth for the rest of the day.
  4. Keep your house at a cooler temperature and bundle up in blankets instead. Keeping your house too hot can lead to having dry mouth. Opt for a cooler temperature to ward off bad breath.

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We’ve all had that moment when we wonder ‘how’s my breath’, but how do we know for sure? Breathing into cupped hands doesn’t cut it, Katz says.

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The best way to check your breath is to lick the back of your hand. Once the saliva dries, you can smell it — if the odor is foul, there’s your answer.

Halitosis may be more prevalent over the holidays, but it’s a condition that afflicts people year round. Katz says there’s a friendly ­– and anonymous – way to let any close-talkers or co-workers in your life know that their breath is leaving a bad impression.

Katz, said he doesn’t have a problem telling people they have bad breath, but realizes it could be an awkward conversation to have around the water cooler.

“If you go to our website, there’s a link at the top called the Virtual Breath Mint,” says Katz.

“Tell me the offender’s email address anonymously and I will inform them  of some of the causes of bad breath. Not to embarrass anyone, just to educate people.”

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