If you try to think of bad breath that comes from eating food, what immediately comes to mind? If you have ever eaten Italian or Greek food, it may be garlic that first pops into your brain. As far as oral odor goes, this little bulb packs quite a wallop, which is one reason why using specialty breath fresheners is so important.
Garlic has been ruining breath for thousands of years. What makes it so bad? Unlike other forms of bad breath, which typically come from bacterial growth in your mouth, garlic breath originates in one simple molecule: allyl methyl sulfide (AMS).
This compound is part of a class of substances known as volatile sulfur compounds, which are "volatile" because they are likely to evaporate off of your tongue and leave your mouth as halitosis.
Does AMS emit its smell from your mouth or your stomach? In 1941, a curious pair of doctors from New York's Mount Sinai Hospital wanted to know if halitosis is an oral or a gastric problem. To find out, they asked volunteers to chew garlic or rinse with "strong rye whisky," after which the duo measured the level of oral odor acquired.
Sure enough, bad breath is an oral problem.
AMS gives garlic its scent. Because the molecule is hydrophobic, simply rinsing with water or an alcohol-based mouthwash will not get rid of it. This is the curse of garlic breath. It seems to last and last.
How can you beat this form of bad breath? Researchers are divided on whether or not certain foods can cancel out the smell of AMS. A report in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry announced that several foods may chemically mute the smell of garlic.
"The odor of [AMS] was remarkably reduced by kiwi fruit, spinach, [cut] lettuce, parsley, basil, mushrooms and, particularly, cow's milk, raw egg, boiled rice and bovine serum albumin," the authors concluded.
The problem with eating to get rid of garlic breath is that, in the process, you are giving oral microbes more food to feast on.
Also, just look at the list of foods that "particularly" reduce garlic breath? Drinking milk means trading one form of bad breath for another. And who wants to eat raw eggs to freshen their mouth? Or bovine serum albumin? That's a protein that comes from cow's blood!
Here's where a specialty breath freshener may do the trick. Since brushing alone can't knock out garlic breath - as proved by a study published in the journal Gastroenterology - it is important to add specialty rinses or oral care probiotics to one's tooth care routine.