Health: How To Return Your Oral Fresh Breath

Bad breath — we’ve all been there. Whether it’s that pasty feeling in our mouths from not eating for too long or the conclusion of a long day full of particularly funky food and drink, just about everyone has, at some point in their life, had really bad breath.

Whereas bad breath can happen to any one of us, halitosis is a more persistent condition that takes more than just a piece of gum to get rid of. “Halitosis is reserved for chronic bad breath, as opposed to occasional bad breath after meals or morning breath,” says Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist Matt Nejad. Unlike morning breath, garlic breath, or that smell after a tuna sandwich, halitosis is something that lingers long and can be a warning sign of something more serious.

(If your bad breath seems more stubborn than short-lived, read about diagnosis and management here.)

You may think that you’re one of those who hasn’t ever had the misfortune of bad breath or even halitosis, but chances are you would be mistaken. Roughly 50 percent of Americans are suffering from some form of this long lasting bad breath at any given time. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do about it. There are quite a few steps you can take. Some solutions are obvious and some may surprise you, but these are the 10 methods you can employ right away to avoid bad breath.

Visit the Dentist:

First things first: It's one thing to know that you have bad breath, but it's quite another to get to the root of what may be causing it. Ninety percent of bad breath comes from within the mouth, so going to the dentist twice a year for a routine cleaning and checkup is the most important step to maintaining fresh breath.
“Regular oral hygiene such as brushing, flossing, tongue scraping, and mouth rinse agents are very effective at minimizing problems including bad breath,” Nejad explains. “However, certain conditions such as periodontal disease, cavities, cracks, and infections cannot be entirely avoided with home care alone. Identifying these problems and taking care of them early is key to maintaining and keeping your teeth for life, and avoiding more serious and invasive treatments.”

Brush Your Teeth:

If you haven’t learned this yet, then now’s the time. Brushing your teeth at least twice daily — in the morning and before bed — is important to get food particles and an overabundance of bacteria lingering in your mouth out. If morning and night isn’t enough, keep a toothbrush close by at the office. It can do wonders for your confidence before and important meeting or client call.

Floss Every Day:

If you are lying to the dentist about flossing, the only person you’re hurting is yourself … and maybe those within talking distance. In between teeth is where food gets stuck, sometimes even after brushing, and just like old food stinks if it sits outside your mouth, it stinks when it sits inside your mouth as well. Since flossing removes the big stuff as well as plaque and bacteria, it may be one of the best ways to help prevent bad breath from happening in the first place.

“You can’t be clean on the outside of the tooth, but dirty in-between the teeth … overall this amounts to still being dirty,” Nejad explains about leaving floss out of the equation. “For example, if your T-shirt was clean in the front but dirty in the back, then it would still be considered dirty. It’s the same with teeth: If one surface is dirty or is not effectively maintained, then overall the whole mouth will experience the effects, including inflammation, bad breath, cavities.”

Clean Your Tongue:

Your tongue is a happy place for stinky bacteria thanks to it being warm, wet, and regularly flooded with food and drink. That’s why it’s important to scrape it whenever you brush your teeth by using a tongue scraper regularly. “Do not brush the tongue,” Nejad says. “[Instead], use a tongue scraper.”

Don’t be scared to get all the way back there either, since the entire tongue holds onto bacteria. “The top portion of the tongue is a big culprit. Scraping the tongue regularly to remove the layer of bacteria, cells, and coating makes a big difference in helping to avoid bad breath,” Nejad explains.

Swish Mouthwash:

Believe it or not, original Listerine was first used as a surgical antiseptic, hair tonic, deodorant, and even a floor cleaner before it got the minty fresh makeover we all come to expect. Today, there are myriad of mouthwash options with differing flavours, ingredients, and benefits. Keep an eye out for two specific ingredients: zinc to reduce plaque growth, and chlorhexidine to fight bacteria.

“Saliva has an important role of moistening the mouth and neutralizing the acids produced from bacteria and plaque, and killing bacteria [as well as] helping to wash away food particles, and cleanse the teeth,” Nejad explains.

To get the most bang for the buck, avoid using alcohol — specifically ethanol — if you can since its natural drying effect reduces the amount of saliva produced in your mouth, which can result in dry mouth. Notes Nejad, “When you have dry mouth, none of [the benefits of saliva] occurs effectively and this can make matters even worse.”

That said, mouthwash is arguably the most immediate if still a temporary way to fix bad breath. “Mouthwash can leave you with fresh breath for a short period of time by masking the odour,” says Nejad. “Therefore it is temporary but effective in a pinch.”

Use Gum or Mints:

Sometimes there is no other option when you’re on the run than to go for a quick fix such as gum or mints. When grabbing gum, look for it to be sugar-free with Xylitol. Chewing gum anytime, but especially after you eat, will help you avoid bad breath by keeping saliva flowing, ensuring food is dissolved and dislodged, while Xylitol helps prevent plaque bacteria from sticking to your teeth to begin with.

Sugar-free mints are another great option if a toothbrush or gum isn’t around. The goal is to keep salivating since it is necessary to keep your mouth moist, neutralize acids produced by plaque, and clean away old food and dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks.

Eat the Right Foods:

“Diet can play a big role in bad breath as well, and also some dental restorations or oral appliances can be to blame for bad breath,” says Nejad. “Dietary considerations include the types of foods you eat and drink, as well as your diet type (keto, paleo, etc).”

Sometimes just knowing what to start with and what to end with does the job for you. Foods that fight bacteria and neutralize odours are a great way to wrap up the meal. Look for parsley, green tea, yoghurt, certain fruits and vegetables, even nuts to do some of the hard work for you if you don’t think you’ll be able to take a toothbrush to your mouth after lunch. Is this a solution that is going to last you until dinner? No, probably not, but if you’re in a pinch, it sure will do the job.

Avoid Cigarettes, Coffee, and Alcohol:

This one is a no-brainer: Cigarettes, coffee, and alcohol are major players in bad breath. Smoking may be down from its heyday in the ‘60s, but in recent years, it has started to tick back up, which means even more bad breath just waiting to happen. “All of these things cause dry mouth which contributes to bad breath,” Nejad says of this tainted trifecta. “Also, each of these things has an unpleasant odour lingers in the oral cavity.”

“Sulfurous compounds in coffee can break down to produce odour by some oral bacteria, and drinking alcohol kills off the good bacteria in your mouth and allows the bad bacteria to proliferate and contribute to bad breath,” he continues. “Smoking leaves tar and other chemicals in the mouth which smell bad.”

It goes without saying that we love our vices, but you and those around you are practically guaranteed to notice a difference once you ditch these from the rotation — or at least lighten up a bit.

Breathe Through Your Nose:

As we know by now, a big cause of bad breath is lack of salivary flow, which results in dry mouth. Breathing through your nose helps prevent your mouth from drying out and therefore helps saliva keep doing its job of neutralizing bacteria in your mouth.

See a Physician:

Bad breath can also be linked to illness, stress, stomach problems, low fluid intake, and many other conditions. “See your dentist to help identify the source of the bad breath, because it may arise from other factors which you are not aware of,” Nejad concludes.

If your bad breath persists or gets worse, you’re better off visiting a physician to make sure it’s not something completely unrelated to your eating habits and dental hygiene. It’s important to make sure you take your oral health seriously since bad breath might only be the beginning of something serious.

If you practice good oral hygiene, take the right precautions, and keep up with regular dentist visits, the chances of you having socially debilitating bad breath lessen significantly.

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