The aim of this study was to reveal the mechanisms by which zinc ions inhibit oral malodor. The direct binding of zinc ions to gaseous hydrogen sulfide (H2S) was assessed in comparison with other metal ions. Nine metal chlorides and six metal acetates were examined. To understand the strength of H2S volatilization inhibition, the minimum concentration needed to inhibit H2S volatilization was determined using serial dilution methods. Subsequently, the inhibitory activities of zinc ions on the growth of six oral bacterial strains related to volatile sulfur compound (VSC) production and three strains not related to VSC production were evaluated. Aqueous solutions of ZnCl2, CdCl2, CuCl2, (CH3COO)2Zn, (CH3COO)2Cd, (CH3COO)2Cu, and CH3COOAg inhibited H2S volatilization almost entirely. The strengths of H2S volatilization inhibition were in the order Ag+ > Cd2+ > Cu2+ > Zn2+. The effect of zinc ions on the growth of oral bacteria was strain-dependent. Fusobacterium nucleatum ATCC 25586 was the most sensitive, as it was suppressed by medium containing 0.001% zinc ions. Zinc ions have an inhibitory effect on oral malodor involving the two mechanisms of direct binding with gaseous H2S and suppressing the growth of VSC-producing oral bacteria.