Beat Back Bad Breath By Banishing Bacteria
A mint, a stick of gum or a quick swish of mouthwash might be your go-to solution for any concerns about the quality of your breath, but those are short-term solutions at best. If bad breath is a consistent problem for you – no judgment here, it happens to a lot of us! – there are better, more effective bad breath remedy options.
Halitosis: A Fun Word for Something That’s No Fun
So what causes bad breath, or halitosis, as it’s known in the scientific community? Unfortunately, the answer is “a whole lot of things.” It’s a very case-dependent condition, and pinpointing the exact cause for any one individual can be tricky. Some of the most common causes include:
- Certain foods. Garlic, onions and some spices are particularly problematic, as they can get into the bloodstream and be circulated through the lungs, which means that even a thorough brushing won’t get them off your breath. Mouth bacteria love sugar and use it to create acid that can sour breath, so eating too much sugary food can also cause bad breath. Alcohol, broccoli, kale, legumes, soft drinks, coffee and other caffeinated drinks can be an issue as well. And certain diets, particularly keto, can be especially conducive to halitosis.
- Tobacco. Smoking is well known to affect breath in a negative way, but it’s worth pointing out that alternatives such as chewing tobacco have the same effect.
- Other bad habits. Food that isn’t properly cleaned from the mouth eventually begins to break down and cause bad breath. Insufficient cleaning of dentures can create the same problem.
- Tooth decay. Decay never smells good, and it can happen in the mouth when proper dental care is not taken. Mouth sores, surgical wounds and small stones of plaque that form in the tonsils – officially called tonsilloliths, but colloquially (and unappealingly) referred to as “throat boogers” – can also be an issue.
- Gum disease. Inadequate dental care can eventually lead to periodontitis, which allows plaque to get trapped in pockets in the gums.
- Dry mouth. Saliva cleans the mouth, and dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, prevents it from doing that. Dry mouth may be caused by medications or salivary gland problems, and it sometimes occurs naturally at night, especially among people who sleep with their mouth open.
- Other health conditions. Certain cancers, GERD, acid reflux, metabolic disorders, kidney and liver disease, diabetes and tonsilitis have all been the subject of finger-pointing when it comes to bad breath. Postnasal drip caused by infection or inflammation of the nose, throat and/or sinuses can also contribute.
- Certain medications. Antidepressants, antihistamines, decongestants and diuretics have all been known to cause the occasional case of halitosis.
Practice Good Dental Hygiene
It probably won’t come as a surprise, but proper dental hygiene is a key component of keeping your breath fresh. You already know you should be flossing and brushing twice a day, so what else can you do to prevent halitosis from creeping on?
First of all, you should look at your brushing habits. If twice a day isn’t doing the trick, you might consider brushing after meals as well; we guarantee you won’t be the first person who brings a toothbrush to work so they can brush after lunch! Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush, replace it every three or four months and don’t brush too hard, as too-intense brushing can wear down teeth and make them more vulnerable to decay.
Don’t Stop with Your Teeth
Sure, the teeth capture a lot of food particles and bacteria, but your mouth has other culprits on that front. Be sure to brush your cheeks and the roof of your mouth, too. And for Pete’s sake, don’t overlook your tongue! Brushing your tongue or, even better, using a tongue scraper can get rid of a lot of bacteria, food debris and dead cells that standard brushing misses. The back of the tongue is particularly popular as a gathering place for bacteria. Be sure to rinse afterward to flush out that bacteria.
…Even if They’re Not Your Original Teeth
Dentures need to be cleaned regularly, just like natural teeth. The same goes for dental bridges, retainers and mouthguards – clean daily to keep breath bearable. And be sure to actually clean them; deodorizing tablets and sprays are only a temporary solution.
What About Mouthwash?
OK, yes, we did throw some shade on mouthwash above. But it has an important role to play – as long as it’s the antibacterial kind, not just the minty-fresh kind. An effective mouthwash will clear out the bacteria that are missed – or just dislodged – by brushing, flossing and tongue scraping. Just be sure you don’t overdo it, as antibacterial mouthwash can kill good bacteria, too. Once a day after brushing is enough. If you have persistent problems with your breath, your dentist may prescribe an antibacterial toothpaste as well.
Eat the Right Foods
We already explored some of the biggest repeat offenders: garlic, onions, certain spices. But eating the right foods for good breath isn’t just about avoiding the bad ones. Crunchy fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber – think apples, carrots, celery – can help clear food particles out of the teeth, preventing them from becoming problems later. Foods high in probiotics – kefir, miso, sauerkraut, yogurt – are beneficial for the good bacteria in your mouth. And, as always, it’s important to drink enough water. You might also swish with water after a meal to prevent some of those food particles from settling.
Solutions to Fight Dry Mouth
As noted earlier, dry mouth is a big cause of halitosis. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to combat it. Some of the easiest ways to stimulate production of saliva are to chew gum or suck on hard candy – both sugarless, preferably! Some over-the-counter nasal decongestants and allergy medications can help prevent dry mouth, too. And if these tools don’t do the trick, a medical professional may be able to prescribe a medication to stimulate flow of saliva, or even an artificial saliva preparation.
If your dry mouth is most pronounced at night, consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Some people who sleep with their mouths open have even found it useful to utilize a chin strap, which trains the body to close the mouth while sleeping.
Make a Visit to Your Dentist
If you can’t figure out what’s causing your halitosis and/or how to deal with it, talk to someone who can! Your dentist can inspect your mouth and rate the odor of your breath, prescribe the kind of antibacterial mouthwash or toothpaste detailed above, and potentially refer you to a doctor or periodontist if they can help. They can also help you discover the cause by asking questions such as:
- When you noticed the problem
- How often you brush and floss
- What food you eat
- What medications you take
- Whether your snore or breathe through your mouth at night
Helping You with Your Breath & Oral Health
If you’re concerned about your breath – or if you’re just overdue for a routine cleaning and check-up – get in touch with Perimeter Dental Group today to make your appointment. We’ll do whatever we can to get your breath fresh again!