Bad Breath: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention
The majority of the time, the origin is in the mouth. Examples include gum disease, dental cavities, coated tongue (sometimes a white or yellow layer blankets the tongue, usually due to inflammation), and poor oral hygiene. Smokers have bad breath. Food and drink, such as onions, garlic, coffee, and alcohol, can temporarily taint breath.
Advanced age, stress, depression, mouth breathing, alcohol abuse, certain medications, diabetes, and Sjögren syndrome (an autoimmune disease wherein white blood cells attack glands that make saliva and tears) diminish saliva. In addition, malnutrition contributes to overall ill health and bad breath. Uncontrolled diabetes also creates disturbances in oral health. Such infections as sore throat and sinusitis cause halitosis. So do stomach and intestinal disorders, such as heartburn, stomach inflammation and ulcers, and lactose intolerance. Treatment involves correcting the underlying disorder.
You’re on a big date and have had a dinner rich in garlic. Pop a sprig of parsley or other garnish in your mouth and pucker up.
FRESH SPRIG OF PARSLEY, BASIL, MINT, OR CILANTRO
Preparation and use: Place a sprig of any of these leaves in your mouth, chew, and swallow. All green plants contain chlorophyll, which neutralizes odors. Also, aromatic herbs contain essential oils that freshen breath.
LEMON BREATH LIFT
Lemon and pomegranate taste and smell fresh.
1 cup (235 ml) water
2 tablespoons (28 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon (15 ml) pomegranate juice
1 packet (1 g) stevia, or to taste
Preparation and use: Pour the water and pomegranate juice into a glass and stir in the lemon juice. Add the stevia. Drink in the morning (after your daily cuppa joe). Lemon contains essential oils that create the characteristic zesty (or citrus) scent. It’s long been used to reduce unpleasant odors. Both lemon and pomegranate contain flavonoids that help strengthen connective tissues, such as those in the gums. Pomegranate also has a mild antibacterial effect.
CITRUS FRESH BREATH
The rind tastes bitter at first bite, but chewing it gives your mouth a natural, refreshing zing.
1 organic lemon or orange
Preparation and use: Wash the rind thoroughly and tear off a piece. Chew for a flavorful, mouth-freshening burst. Citric acid will stimulate the salivary glands to create saliva, which is a natural breath freshener.
MINTY MOUTH-FRESHENING TEA
2 tablespoons (12 g) loose green tea, or
2 tea bags
1 teaspoon (2 g) crushed fresh mint leaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups (475 ml) boiled water
Preparation and use: Add the tea, mint leaves, and cinnamon to the boiled water. Steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags, if using, and strain out the herbs. Sip and enjoy! Green tea has antibacterial compounds. Cinnamon is antimicrobial and aromatic. The oils in mint fight mouth bacteria that cause halitosis.
1 cup (150 g) apple chunks
1 cup (110 g) grated carrot
1 cup (120 g) diced celery
½ cup (60 g) dried cranberries
½ cup (60 g) crushed walnuts
3 to 5 tablespoons (45 to 75 g) plain non-fat yogurt
Preparation and use: Mix the apple, carrot, celery, cranberries, and walnuts together in a large bowl. Add the yogurt by the tablespoon (15 g) to moisten the mixture and hold it together slightly. Divide between two plates, sprinkle with cinnamon, and serve. Raw, crunchy foods clean the teeth. Apples contain pectin, which helps control food odors. It also promotes saliva, which cleanses breath. Cinnamon is antimicrobial. Yogurt contains the type of bacteria you want in your intestinal tract. Studies show that the active bacteria and cultures in yogurt help reduce odor-causing bacteria in the mouth.
A coated tongue is a prominent factor behind bad breath. Although you can use a toothbrush, a tongue scraper works better. You can buy one at most pharmacies. In a pinch, use a spoon. The coating on the tongue contains some mixture of dead tongue cells, bacteria, and fungi that become trapped between the small projections (papillae) on the tongue’s surface. Daily tongue scraping and brushing decreases this material carpeting the tongue and improves mouth odor.
Hydrogen peroxide is a versatile cleansing agent, in the right doses. Be sure to cut it with water before using.
2 tablespoons (30 ml) hydrogen peroxide
2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
Preparation and Use: Mix the hydrogen peroxide and water in a clean glass. Swish in your mouth for 30 seconds and then spit out. Rinse twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Hydrogen peroxide’s oxygen content kills the bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath.
MOUTHWASH IN A MINUTE
We love the fresh and natural taste of this mouthwash—and it’s alcohol-free, unlike so many off-the shelf products. Do not swallow it!
1 cup (235 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda
3 drops peppermint essential oil
Preparation and use: Mix together all the ingredients. Pour into a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, cap, and shake. Use a small amount to rinse your mouth for about 30 seconds. Spit out—do not swallow. Peppermint is antimicrobial. Baking soda changes the pH (acid) levels in the mouth, creating an anti-odor environment.
YOGURT BREATH BLASTER
1 cup (230 g) vanilla yogurt
1 cup (170 g) sliced strawberries
¼ cup (30 g) chopped walnuts
Sprigs of mint
Preparation and use: Combine the yogurt, strawberries, and walnuts in a small bowl. Top with mint sprigs and serve. Studies say that yogurt’s active bacteria may help control the mouth bacteria that release malodorous chemicals, such as hydrogen sulphide.
Handful of fennel seeds, cloves, or anise seeds
Preparation and use: Pop your spice of choice into your mouth. Chew the seeds, savoring the release of their fresh and spicy, odor-fighting tastes. These spices all have antiseptic qualities that help fight halitosis-causing bacteria and sweeten your breath.
· If you wear dentures, remove them at night and clean them before returning them to your mouth. Removing daily bacterial build-up day from food and drink helps keep your breath fresh.
· Quit smoking to reduce bad breath, which is the least of your problems if you are a smoker. It’s a tough habit to kick, but worth the effort.
· When nothing else is available, swish fresh, cool water around in your mouth. Water freshens breath and makes you feel better in general.
· Practice good oral health regularly:
1. Brush your teeth after every meal.
2. Be gentle on your gums.
3. Floss at least once a day, preferably twice, before you brush.
4. If you can’t brush after a meal, drink water, swish, and spit to remove residual food particles.
5. Replace your toothbrush every two to three months.
6. Keep up with regular dental check-ups, including cleanings.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
• Halitosis persists despite improved oral hygiene.
• You notice your tongue often looks coated.
• Your mouth is often dry.
• You have sores in your mouth, painful gums, or tooth pain (for example, when drinking cold liquids or chewing).
• You have diabetes or another chronic condition and notice a change in your breath.
• You feel ill. (Infection of the tongue, throat, and gums, oral cancer, and many other illnesses affect the breath.)