Bad breath, which is known in the medical community as halitosis is a conditions where a foul odor comes from the mouth. It can occur intermittently, or it can be chronic.
Know the Causes of Bad Breadth
There are several causes of having bad breath. Some of the most common ones are:
- Poor Dental Hygiene: This is probably the most common cause of halitosis. If one does not brush and floss regularly, then the bacteria in our mouth keeps thriving and breaks down the food particles to create a rank odor. Poor dental hygiene leads to a build-up of a film of bacteria, known as plaque. Once the plaque reaches the gums, it can cause a wide variety of periodontal (gum) diseases, all of which has halitosis as one of its side-effects.
- Food: Food particles caught in between our teeth and gums can be a source of bad breath. This is because the bacteria in our mouth will slowly cause these food particles to decay and disintegrate, causing a rank odor. Certain foods, like onion, garlic and some spices may cause you to have bad breath as well. This is because after the nutrients from these foods (including the odor causing components) get absorbed in our bloodstream, they do eventually reach our lungs and get emitted in the form of bad breath.
- Cigarette Smoke: There is no other way to say this, but cigarette smoke stinks. Usually no one can stand the stench caused by cigarettes other than the smokers themselves. Moreover, cigarette smoke leaves people more vulnerable to gum diseases, which may make the breath even worse!
- Crash Diets: Unfortunately, going on a crash diet is a very common trend among people who are in a hurry to lose weight. If people aren’t eating enough, then the stored fat gets broken down and chemicals known as ketones are released in the process, which may cause bad breath.
- Medications: There are several medications that can cause you to have bad breath as well! Some of the most common ones are:
- Antihistamines, to treat allergies.
- Chemotherapy medications, prescribed to those suffering from cancer.
- Diuretics, usually administered to those who have trouble passing urine, or if they suffer from kidney stones.
- Nitrates – used to treat angina, which is a type of chest pain caused by a restricted supply of blood to the heart.
- Certain tranquilizers.
- Mouth Infections: Tooth decay, oral surgery or even gum diseases (as mentioned earlier in this article) may cause halitosis.
- Dentures or Braces: Dentures or braces increase the likelihood of food particles being stuck in the mouth, which can cause bad breath.
- Morning Breath: It is very common to wake up with a rank smell in the mouth. This is because the production of saliva almost stops while you sleep, which allows the bacteria in your mouth to thrive and feast on the food particles that are still lodged in there.
- Dry Mouth: Some people do not produce enough saliva even when they are awake. This condition is known as xerostomia and it can cause bad breath, as discussed already. There could be several reasons why you may not be producing enough saliva, such as breathing through your mouth, connective tissue disorders (Sjogren’s syndrome) or even an infection in the salivary glands.
- Diseases: There are several diseases that can cause you to have bad breath as well. Some examples are as follows:
- Any disease that causes nasal congestion, such as the common cold, sinus infections etc. that forces you to breathe through the nose will cause dry mouth and bad breath in the process.
- Throat infections like pharyngitis, tonsillitis or even tonsil stones (tonsilloliths).
- Lung infections like pneumonia or bronchitis.
- Digestive disorders like lactose intolerance and acid reflux.
- Liver or kidney disorders
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy is not a direct cause for halitosis; however there are several conditions associated with pregnancy, such as morning sickness or the hormonal changes that may cause bad breath.
Home Remedies for Halitosis
Having bad breath is unhealthy, as it may leave you vulnerable to a lot of different oral diseases. It may also cause embarrassment, especially if you find people shirking away from having to talk to you in close quarters. However, you need not worry as the following home remedies may go a long way towards curing halitosis without you having to incur some expensive bills from your dentist.
- Improve your Oral Hygiene
There are several ways you can improve your oral hygiene. Following are some useful suggestions:
- Brush your teeth after every major meal: Some say that brushing your teeth too many times during the day may erode your enamel. This can easily be avoided if you use a toothbrush with soft bristles.
- Brush your tongue or use a tongue-cleaner at least twice a day: Not too many people know this, but your tongue is actually a breeding ground for odor causing bacteria, hence it is a good idea to clean it at least twice a day. Be careful to not extend too far back in your mouth as it may initiate a gag reflex.
- Replace your toothbrush every three months: Your bristles get out of shape with repeated use.
- Use fluoride toothpaste: They have strong-antibacterial properties, which would help reduce the amount of odor-causing bacteria.
- Floss your teeth at least twice a day: No matter how meticulous you are with a toothbrush, there will be certain parts of your mouth that you just won’t be able to reach. This is where you can use a dental floss to clean out food particles from between your teeth.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash: After you finish brushing your teeth, it is always a good idea to rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash. However, this should always be used in conjunction with brushing your teeth.
- Drink a Lot of Water
If you suffer from dry mouth, then you should drink a lot of water. And while you drink it, it is always a good idea to swish some of it around your mouth. However, please note that coffee or alcohol is not a suitable substitute for water, as they tend to dry your mouth even further.
- Clean your Dentures
If you use a partial or full dentures, or even a bridge, you should clean it thoroughly at least once a day. If you use a mouth-guard, you need to clean it every time before you put it in your mouth. Your dentist should have already provided you with some cleaning instruction. If you don’t remember the exact instructions, you may consider the following steps:
- Do not use toothpaste on your dentures. The chemical composition of dentures are usually quite different from your teeth, hence instead of cleaning them, toothpaste may actually stain or otherwise damage your dentures.
- The best way to clean your dentures would be to use some soap and lukewarm water to create lather in a bowl and then dunk your dentures in them. Use a toothbrush (a different one from the one you use to brush your teeth) to clean the hidden food particles. There are several denture creams or tablets available in the market that you can use instead of soap.
- Quit Smoking
Not only will it free your breath from the acrid stench of cigarette smoke, it will also reduce the chances of you suffering from periodontal diseases later on in life. There are several aids available at your local pharmacy, such as nicotine patches or gums, which can help you kick the habit.
- Avoid Eating Onion and Garlic
As stated during the introduction, certain foods like onion or garlic may cause you to have bad breath. Reducing the quantity of these foods will help you control the symptoms of halitosis.
- Reduce your Coffee and Alcohol Consumption
Coffee and alcohol are diuretics, which causes your body to produce excess urine and lose a lot of water in the process. This can cause you to be dehydrated, which in turn will reduce the amount of saliva your salivary glands can produce, leading to bad breath. Reducing the consumption of coffee and alcohol will help you produce an adequate amount of saliva.
- Diet Responsibly
If a qualified dietitian or a nutritionist has recommended a low-carb diet, your body will be forced to break down fats instead of carbohydrates to produce energy, releasing ketones in the process. Some of it will reach your lungs, causing bad breath. The best way to get around that would be to neutralize the release of ketones by adding some simple sugars in your diet in a controlled manner. Sucrose and fructose, two simple sugars present in most fruits will have minimal negative impact on your quest for a leaner body, but will also reduce the production of ketones. Apples and bananas are two excellent sources of these simple sugars.
- Do not Skip your Dental Appointments
Even if you brush and rinse and floss regularly, it does not mean that you do not need to visit your dentist. Make sure you keep up with your appointments once every six months to get your teeth cleaned by a professional.
- Fennel Seeds
Fennel seeds have been used as a natural mouth-freshener for over a century. Chewing on fennel seeds will suppress bad breath for a limited amount of time because:
- It has a pleasant odor that suppresses bad breath.
- It has natural anti-bacterial properties, which reduces the amount of odor-causing bacteria in the mouth.
You can simply chew on a teaspoon of fennel seeds after every meal. However, they can easily get stuck between your teeth, hence it is advised that you swish your mouth with some water after you are done chewing on fennel.
Besides chewing on the seeds directly, you can also make yourself some fennel tea. Following is how you would go about it:
- Take two teaspoons of fennel seeds and let it steep in a cup of boiling water for about 10 minutes.
- Strain and enjoy!
As fennel is naturally sweet, there is no need to add any honey or other sweeteners.
- Sugar-free Chewing Gum
Chewing gum helps stimulate the production of saliva. So if you are sick of drinking water, feel free to pop in a stick of gum. Besides helping produce saliva, the added flavors help suppress bad breath as well!
While picking a chewing gum, make sure you choose a sugar-free variety, as bacteria can actually feed on the sugar.
- Lemon Slice
Chewing on a slice of lemon can also reduce the symptoms of halitosis because:
- It has citric acid, which has anti-bacterial properties.
- The citric acid also stimulates the salivary glands and makes them produce more saliva.
If chewing on a slice of lemon directly proves to be too taxing for you, you can always squeeze have a lemon in a glass of water and swish your mouth with it. Oranges, grapefruit and other citric fruits are worthy replacements, should lemon slices become too monotonous.
Yogurt has probiotic compounds, which reduces the amount of sulfide compounds that causes bad breath.
- Vitamin D
Vitamin D has anti-bacterial properties, hence consuming foods that are rich in Vitamin D such as eggs and salmon can reduce the odor causing bacteria in your mouth.
Cinnamon contains a compound known as cinnamic aldehyde, which has natural deodorizing and anti-bacterial properties. Use the following steps to create an effective home remedy for halitosis using cinnamon:
- Add a teaspoon of cinnamon powder to about 8 oz. of water and boil it.
- Strain the mixture and store it in a glass bottle. Let it cool down to room temperature.
- Rinse your mouth with it, every time you feel your breath turning sour.
You can also add a few bay leaves and some cardamom seeds to make the treatment more effective.
- Fenugreek Tea
Fenugreek tea has a lot of anecdotal evidence in terms of proving it to be an effective home remedy for bad breath caused by the common cold and other infections. Following is how you can make this tea:
- Pour 8 oz. of water in a pan and add one tablespoon of fenugreek seeds to it.
- Cover the pan and boil the mixture.
- Strain and enjoy!
Drink this tea once a day, till the time your infection subsides.
Cloves have anti-bacterial properties and suppresses bad breath by deodorizing your mouth, hence it extremely useful as a home remedy for halitosis. You can put a couple of pieces of cloves in your mouth and gently chew on them. ‘Gentle’ is the operative word here, as it has a very strong taste and can irritate the palate of the uninitiated.
You can also create a natural mouthwash using cloves, the same way as you would go about preparing the fenugreek tea!
Both black and green tea has natural polyphenols that acts as an anti-bacterial agent. However, one needs to drink them in moderation as they are natural diuretics as well, which can cause symptoms of dry mouth, which as discussed earlier is a known cause for bad breath.
- Baking soda
Sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda has anti-bacterial qualities as well, which can be used to treat halitosis. There are a couple of ways you can incorporate baking soda to get rid of bad breath. You can add half a teaspoon of baking soda to about 8 oz. of lukewarm water and use it to rinse your mouth, every time you think that your breath is taking a turn for the worse. On the other hand, you can also sprinkle some baking soda on your toothpaste and use it to brush your teeth!
- Apple Cider Vinegar
The anti-bacterial properties of apple cider vinegar (ACV) have been well-documented and they can be used to get rid of the odor causing bacteria in your mouth. There are a couple of methods by which ACV can be used to treat halitosis:
- Add a tablespoon of organic ACV to about 8 oz. of lukewarm water and use that as a mouthwash whenever you feel that your breath is becoming a bit rank.
- You can mix a tablespoon of organic ACV to a glass of water and drink that before meals.
For best results, use organic ACV that has the “mother of vinegar” still in it. If you feel a burning sensation while utilizing this treatment, it may be because you are either allergic or overtly sensitive to it. If that is the case, you need to stop using ACV and utilize any of the other treatments mentioned in this article.
- Re-balance Gut Flora
Your small and large intestine is home to trillions of beneficial bacteria known as gut flora/gut microbiota that is critical for many of our body functions like synthesizing essential vitamins and building our immune system.
Latest research suggests that the diversity and ratio of good and bad bacteria is vital to your health. An imbalance between good and bad bacteria either caused by stress, medications, eating processed foods etc can result in number of health problems including bad breath.
Ways to Re-establish the Balance
The key to keeping your oral and digestive health disease free is to consume healthy foods among other things which include:
- Eating Live Fermented Foods – Fermented foods promote healthy bioflora in your mouth and gets rid of Streptococcus mutans which is a significant contributor to tooth decay. It is beneficial to consume cultured foods that are high in Lactobacillus strains and bacteria that produce high levels of lactic acid. Good sources include traditionally made kefir, yogurt, fermented fruits and vegetables (including cabbage, cucumber, turnips, and carrots).
- Taking a Quality Probiotic Supplement–This will help reseed the beneficial organisms that have been killed by medications, especially antibiotics.
- Eating unprocessed whole foods
- Eating fiber dense foods like beans, nuts, sweet potatoes etc
- Eating organic pastured meats and dairy products
- Eating raw fruits and vegetables
- Consuming healthy fats such as coconut oil
- Avoiding agricultural chemicals, like pesticides
Healthy gut bacteria goes a long way to not only get rid of bad breath but your overall well being as well.