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Dentist-Recommended Tips to Get Rid of Garlic Breath — and the Pre-Meal Snack That Prevents the Problem

Many foodies and home chefs consider garlic an essential ingredient. The bulb-shaped vegetable adds a burst of flavor to whatever its paired with, enriching even the most basic dishes. Garlic is as versatile as it is tasty. You can add it to soups and salad dressings or bake it whole as a delicious side. But if you aren’t careful, the plant’s pungent odor can linger, leaving your breath less than fresh. Wondering how to get rid of garlic breath? You aren’t alone! Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to fight back. Here, we provide expert tips for keeping your breath fresh and garlic-free.

Why garlic causes bad breath

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Garlic is a member of the onion family, a group of root vegetables. It’s aromatic and boasts a strong depth of flavor. But the same compounds that make garlic flavorful also cause it to linger on your breath.

“Garlic causes bad breath because it releases sulfur-based volatiles (aka vaporized odor molecules) when crushed,” explains Jossen Gastelum, DMD, a general and cosmetic dentist in Scottsdale, Arizona, who regularly shares oral health advice with his 10,000+ Instagram followers. “In addition to that, when garlic is metabolized by your body, those molecules continue releasing into your bloodstream, causing that odor to last for hours.”

How to get rid of garlic breath

Garlic breath is never pleasant, but if you’re going on a date or meeting face-to-face with coworkers, it can be downright embarrassing. The good news: getting rid of garlic breath is easier than you think and there’s a good chance you have everything you need to fight back at home. Here’s how to get started:

1. Eat yogurt as an appetizer

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Before digging into a garlic-heavy meal, consider eating a yogurt appetizer or making a yogurt-based side. “Yogurt contains fat and protein, which both help to eliminate garlic breath,” says Sheryl Barringer, PhD, a professor of food science and technology at Ohio State University in Columbus. “The protein and fat help to bind the sulfur volatiles that give garlic its characteristic odor.”

Science backs this theory up. A study led by Dr. Barringer and published in the journal Molecules found that eating yogurt reduced 99% of the major odor-producing raw garlic volatiles (the molecules responsible for bad breath).

Dr. Barringer recommends eating yogurt before your meal or with it for the best results. “As soon as you eat garlic, it starts to be digested and the sulfur volatiles go into your blood,” she explains. “From your blood, they come out of your lungs on your breath.”

Eating a yogurt-based dessert may provide similar results, but only if you eat it immediately after your meal. “We tried waiting 5 minutes after the garlic to eat the yogurt and found that it still worked, though not as well” Dr. Barringer adds. “If you wait an hour, you will already have the volatiles in your blood…so it will be too late for the yogurt to have an effect.”

2. Enjoy apples and lettuce

“Certain fruits and vegetables like lettuce and apples can eliminate garlic breath,” says Irina Kessler, DDS, a partner of New York Family Dental Arts on the Upper East Side with more than 25 years of experience. “Lettuce has a high water content, which increases saliva production. Saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria and neutralizes acids, contributing to a cleaner and fresher mouth.”

Similarly, Dr. Kessler says that apples contain natural compounds that act as deodorizers. They also have a crunchy texture that can help remove any garlic particles that are stuck in your gums and teeth.

Like yogurt, fresh apples and lettuce should be eaten with or immediately after you consume garlic. If you wait too long, Dr. Gastelum says the garlic will enter your bloodstream, making bad breath harder to treat.

3. Use a mouthwash that contains this ingredient

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Using the right type of mouthwash can keep garlic breath at bay. “There are mouthwashes on the market formulated to help with bad breath, specifically with the ingredient sodium chlorite,” Dr. Gastelum says. “Specific to garlic breath, sodium chlorite is effective in reducing and binding to those nasty vaporized compounds produced by garlic.”

Indeed, Iowa State University researchers have confirmed sodium chlorite’s deodorizing effects. In one study, participants who rinsed their mouth with a sodium chlorite-based mouthwash experienced a 91.7% reduction in odor-causing garlic compounds. These results led the scientists to conclude that sodium chlorite was “the most effective chemical compound” in reducing and binding volatile garlic compounds.

One to try: TheraBreath Fresh Breath Mouthwash (Buy on Amazon, $14.97 for 2 16-oz bottles).

4. Chew sugar-free mint or spearmint gum

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Many people use gum to freshen their breath and mask odors, but certain types of gum are better than others. Case and point: sugar-free mint or spearmint gum.

Gita Yitta, DMD, a public health dentist and the dental public health lead at DenScore, says that sugar-free gum, in particular, “helps produce saliva, which can then wash away food particles in the mouth.”

Sugar-free gum is particularly beneficial because it doesn’t cause tooth decay. Even better? Chewing sugar-free mint or spearmint gum takes those odor-eliminating benefits even further. Consider that fresh mint and spearmint leaves reduce the amount of volatile odor-causing compounds in garlic.

One to try: Xylichew all-natural, sugar-free spearmint gum (Buy on Amazon, $11.50 for 60 pieces). Verified buyer Jason Insley, Jr. has witnessed the breath-freshening benefits firsthand, noting that this is “Good gum for bad breath…overall I like it.”

5. Drink a glass of milk

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Another easy way to combat garlic breath? Drink a glass of milk with garlic heavy dishes. “The fat and protein that’s in yogurt is also in milk and binds to the volatiles [e.g., odor-causing molecules],” Dr. Barringer says.

For the freshest breath possible, opt for whole milk. “We found that whole fat milk was better than skim milk at binding the volatiles,” she explains. A study published in the Journal of Food Science confirms milk’s odor-busting benefits. Here, researchers concluded that “both fat-free and whole milk lowered the concentration of…odor-emitting garlic compounds in the nose and mouth.”

As with the other foods on this list, when you drink the milk affects its efficacy. The study above found that drinking milk while eating garlic offers better results than waiting to drink the milk afterward. That isn’t to say that chasing a garlicky meal with a glass of milk won’t help, but your results won’t be as noticeable.

6. Practice good oral hygiene

Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly is key to preventing cavities and gum disease, but it can help eliminate garlic breath, too. “If you have regular dental cleanings and floss and brush daily, you’re already ahead of the game,” Dr. Kessler says. “Old fillings and dental restorations can cause bad breath as well as food. However, [the odors caused by] garlic and onion-like foods are temporary versus bacteria in your mouth, which won’t go away unless the problem is addressed.”

Dr. Gastelum agrees, noting that “garlic breath is something that should dissipate after a few hours or a day at most. If you are noticing continuous bad breath, then the most likely culprit is not something you ate.”

Don’t wait to make an appointment with your dentist if you have persistent breath problems. After an oral exam, they can determine if your bad breath is caused by oral bacteria or a gut issue, like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). (Click through to learn how to treat bad breath caused by stomach problems).

7. Drink plenty of water

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Drinking water is good for your digestion and circulation, but it provides the added benefit of fresh breath. Consider that one study published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene found that folks with bad breath who drank 200 milliliters of water (about 1 cup) experienced a 60% reduction in bad breath-causing molecules. Study participants who rinsed their mouth with water experienced similar benefits.

The study was conducted to assess water’s effects on morning breath, but Dr. Yitta says the findings apply to garlic breath as well. “Water is hugely beneficial to preventing bad breath,” she says. “It washes away bacteria and food debris.” (Learn how drinking more water and upping your garlic intake help get rid of a UTI, too.)


For more ways to improve your oral health:

Your Toothbrush Is Teeming With Bacteria: Dentists Share How to Clean It

More Than 80% of People Who Grind Their Teeth in Their Sleep Don’t Know They Do It — This Simple Tweak Puts an End to It

Dentists Finally Settle the Debate on Using Mouthwash Before or After Brushing

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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