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Woman with bad breath covering her mouth.

Avoid These Holiday Bad Breath Causes!

The holidays are known for three things: family, fun and food! If you have a holiday party around the corner or are visiting your family, expect to eat a variety of delicious treats. But remember that while you’re making small talk around the table, your holiday favorites could have left you with a bad case of halitosis. When you’re snacking this holiday season, beware of these four common bad breath causes. 

The 4 Worst Holiday Foods for Bad Breath 


There are two types of holiday spirit, and the one that comes in beverage form can be a recipe for foul breath. Among many of the side-effects of drinking alcohol is dry mouth. Also known as xerostomia, it can be a very uncomfortable feeling. But that feeling isn’t the only thing that it causes. 

Saliva in your mouth has a lot of different jobs. It helps you break down foods to digest them more efficiently, it helps wash away particles of food and drink, and it also helps neutralize acids from bacteria. When you have chronic dry mouth, it leaves your mouth vulnerable. 

Increased bacteria in a dry mouth will thrive, and excess food particles can stay lodged in deep recesses between your teeth. These all combine to create a foul odor that will your family avoiding face-to-face conversations all night. 

Dry mouth can also make it easier for food to get stuck on your retainer, while also making it less comfortable to wear. 

If that wasn’t bad enough, there’s one specific holiday favorite that’s bound to give you problems: eggnog. This delicious drink combines the dry mouth issues of alcohol with high sugar and fat contents. The overall result will be a perfect environment for various bad breath causes. 

Plus, if you’re an adult wearing orthodontic braces, you’ll want to avoid sugary, acidic drinks as much as you can anyway. They’re one of the worst offenders when it comes to damaging your teeth. 

Candy Canes 

 Peppermint candy canes in a bag resting on a table. 

While you may associate peppermint with fresh breath, candy canes are far from comparable to sugar-free gums with the same flavoring. Not only are candy canes pure sugar, modern flavors have strayed far from the Christmas classic – with all sorts of flavors, you can have a full range of fruity choices. 

Unlike other bad breath causes, however, candy canes won’t directly impact your breath. In fact, the popular peppermint flavor may temporarily give you some “fresh air” in your mouth. The long-term impact from these pure sugar sticks are the bacteria they promote. 

The sugar in candy canes are the preferred food for bacteria that always resides in your mouth. As you eat candy canes, so do the bacteria. Then, they leave behind waste that not only wears away your tooth enamel, but also creates a foul odor in your mouth. 

What makes matters worse is how sticky candy canes are. This can spell disaster for someone wearing braces. If you’re currently undergoing orthodontic treatment, it’s recommended that you stay away from candy canes. 

Additionally, the stickiness of this candy means you’re likely to have large chunks leftover in your mouth for a long time after you finish eating. While sugar is always bad for your teeth, prolonged exposure can be exponentially worse – you’re far more likely to develop painful cavities from sticky candy that gets lodged in your teeth. 

Cranberry Sauce 

It wouldn’t be the holidays without a delicious serving of cranberry sauce. However, don’t let its name fool you: it’s not as natural as you may think! Cranberry sauce is loaded with corn syrup and artificial substances that feed the bacteria in your mouth. Once they’re full, they’ll leave behind more acidic waste that turns your breath sour. 

Ironically, many believe that cranberry sauce helps freshen their breath. While this isn’t true, it has a basis in reality. Cranberries, without the artificial flavoring and chemicals, are believed to help prevent the sulfur-producing bacteria that leads to bad breath odors. So, leave the cranberry sauce behind and grab a handful of organic cranberries instead! 

Holiday Casseroles 

Are you visiting home for the holidays? Your mouth may already be salivating thinking of your parent’s signature casserole. But don’t forget to bring a breath mint too! 

Every casserole is made differently, but they typically will include plenty of butter, cream, cheese, gravy or grease. Unlike sugar, these won’t all necessarily stimulate additional bacteria in your mouth. Instead, they can leave behind an unnoticeable film that, as the evening continues, will begin to release a nose-wrinkling smell. 

You may realize after brushing later that night that your breath hasn’t completely gone back to normal. Don’t forget to clean your tongue – it’s a common place for that film to hide and contribute to your breath’s smell. 

Fighting Bad Breath Causes at Your Holiday Party 

If you’re at a holiday party or family gathering, you might not be able to step away to brush your teeth. However, there are a few steps you can take to minimize the impact of the bad breath causes mentioned above. 

Drink More Water 

Most foods that lead towards bad breath do so based on the remnants they leave in your mouth. Drinking water helps wash these remnants away. It doesn’t compare to brushing or flossing, but it’s certainly better than doing nothing! 

Water also has some additional benefits. It keeps your mouth from drying, for one. Another indirect benefit is that when you drink water, you’re probably not drinking soda or alcohol – which helps you avoid the problems they can cause. 

Bring Some Sugar-Free Gum 

If water helps, saliva is even better. Chewing gum promotes your saliva production and which naturally helps remove food particles from your mouth. Of course, sugar-free gum is the best choice. While gum with sugar in it will promote saliva production as well, the extra sugar you’re adding to your mouth does harm that far outweighs the benefit of the extra saliva. 

Of course, if you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment and have braces in, you’ll have to skip the gum. A small travel-sized mouthwash can be similarly helpful without the risk of getting stuck in your brackets. 

Find the Veggie Platter 

It’s true, you can’t brush your teeth at a party. But vegetables like carrots or celery can act like natural toothbrushes! Chewing on these foods can remove plaque and food particles. But that’s not all, they also contain healthy nutrients for your body! 

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