The smell of fresh roasted coffee is one of the most popular smells in America. It ranked 4th on a recent Cosmopolitan poll, and 51st on Buzzfeed’s list of the best things. But how can something that smells so good when you are brewing it make your breath smell so bad?
Caffeine—The biggest reason coffee leaves you with stinky breath is related to how your body reacts to caffeine. While caffeine does release dopamine in your brain and increases blood flow all over your body, which wakes a person up and makes them more alert, it also slows down your saliva production. Believe it or not, saliva is one of the most important factors in preventing smelly breath. It is responsible for washing away excess bacteria and bits of food that fuel bacteria. So, after caffeine slows your saliva production, your mouth becomes a more hospitable home for bacteria, which in turn release smelly sulfur compounds as they digest the bits of food on your teeth. The more bacteria releasing these compounds, the worse your breath smells.
Dairy and Sugar—When you mix milk or cream or sugar into your coffee you are adding another component that bacteria love to chow down on. These additions, especially sugar, can send bad breath causing bacteria into overdrive, and leave those around you wishing they had a breath mint to give you.
Acid—Coffee is acidic, and when you drink it temporarily lowers the pH level of your mouth slightly. As it turns out, bacteria reproduce more quickly in mouths that are slightly more acidic than normal. When combined with the fact that there is less saliva to wash everything away, your mouth becomes a great place for bacteria to spawn.
Tips for avoiding coffee breath: If you are going to drink coffee it is pretty much impossible to avoid getting coffee breath after, but here are several ways to make your breath smell better if you can’t brush your teeth or pop in a breath mint…
- Drink lighter coffees. Darker blends tend to have more pungent scents, and in turn will leave your breath smelling the worst. Lighter coffees also have less caffeine in general, which might defeat the purpose of coffee for some people, but if you are truly worried about your breath it is a sacrifice you might consider.
- Water down your coffee, or drink water before and after. Washing out your mouth with water will decrease the number of bacteria and serve as a palate cleanser.
- Chew sugar free gum. Chewing gum is a great way to stimulate saliva production, and has also been shown to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth. Gum has the added benefit of introducing a nice scent, such as mint, into the mix.
- Switch to Tea! Tea has less caffeine, is not often drunk with sugar or milk (at least in America), and is not acidic like coffee, all of which combine to leave your breath smelling better.
- Eat hard cheese after. This sounds like an odd one, but many hard cheeses act both as scrubbers for your teeth as you chew, and natural pH balancers. But beware, they also have strong odors of their own and you could end up replacing one stinky breath smell with another.
Dr. Potts is a gentle, caring dentist who uses the most advanced materials and procedures available. He practices comfortable, health-centered dentistry, with a strong emphasis on getting to know each patient. In addition to his technical proficiency, Dr. Potts is a careful listener. He makes sure to understand what you want and will explain beforehand what treatment is best for your individual needs, along with all options available to you. Check out our Twitter, Facebook page, and website.