Whether it's a momentary case of morning breath or a persisting bout with halitosis, everyone gets bad breath sometimes.
Unfortunately, for as easy as it can be to get bad breath, ousting it can be a bit more complicated. For some, simply ramping up oral hygiene will do the trick. For others, changes to eating habits and a professional cleaning could be necessary. And, some may discover that underlying health issues are the cause of their bad breath problems.
So what's the first step you should take to freshen your breath? Check out these 10 tips.
1: Brush and Floss
Your mouth naturally rolls out the red carpet for millions of bacteria - 700 different kinds to be exact. In fact, some claim that there are more bacteria living in your mouth than there are cells in your entire body, making it difficult to know the right way to fight them and the odors they give off. Regardless, there are simple things you can do to battle bad breath caused by bacteria.
After you eat, food particles left to linger along the gum line and between your teeth are bound to give you bad breath. To remove those bits leftover from a meal, brush your teeth 2-3 times per day and floss at least once daily.
2: Clean Your Tongue
The surface of your tongue is a hospitable place for food debris, dead cells, bacteria and the byproducts of bacterial digestion -- all contributing to foul-smelling breath. After you brush your teeth, be sure to brush your tongue as well. Go over the front half of your tongue very gently with your toothbrush, taking special care not to beat up your taste buds. You can also use a specialized tongue cleaner to remove the odor-causing debris from its surface.
3: Drink More Water
Saliva contains oxygen, which deters the growth of bacteria. When you sleep, you produce less saliva, explaining why we wake up with stinky morning breath. However, “morning breath” can strike any time of day when your mouth gets too dry. Without saliva, your mouth can’t naturally wash away food or dispel bacteria, resulting in offensive odors.
To banish morning breath, brush your teeth, clean your tongue and rinse with mouthwash. But, to stay fresh and keep saliva flowing throughout the rest of the day, make sure you drink plenty of water. You can also stimulate saliva production by chewing gum or sucking on a mint, but these are only temporary solutions.
4: Don't Depend on Mints and Gum
Using a mint to cover up bad breath works about as well as using perfume to mask body odor. It might work for a while, but the smell will break through soon enough. A mint or piece of gum just won't kill the bacteria that’s actually causing your mouth odor. Also, if the mint or gum has sugar in it, it will only feed the bacteria and possibly make your breath even worse than before.
It's also possible that your bad breath is caused by a medical condition, such as diabetes, liver problems or a sinus infection, for which a mint is certainly no cure.
5: Be Aware of Odor Causing Foods
The foods you eat have a lot of influence on scent of your breath. So, now’s the time to examine your dinner plate. Of course, there are foods that are notorious for resulting in bad breath, like onions and garlic. However, the other perpetrators may surprise you. For example, when eating meat of any kind, particles will stick around between your teeth and along your gum line even after you wash it down with water, attracting bacteria like moths to a flame.
While high-protein, low-carb diets may be great for your waistline, they aren't helping your breath. When you eat less than 100 grams of carbohydrates a day, it triggers a condition known as ketosis. This is a metabolic state causing your body to burn fat rather than sugar and it’s notorious for causing bad breath.
6: Get More Vitamin C
Fruits high in vitamin C, like melons, citrus and berries won’t sit well with the germs in your mouth. The more C-packed foods you eat, the more oral bacteria you’ll kill.
Other foods that will help suppress bad breath include crunchy fruits and vegetables, like carrots, celery and apples. These are good options to munch on after a meal because the fiber they contain will aid in removing food that's stuck in your teeth. They will also increase saliva production, which is bad news for bacteria.
7: Use More Natural Cures
To combat bad breath, chase meals with green tea or drink it throughout the day. The antibacterial compounds in green tea will fight the germs in your mouth and help keep your breath fresh. Take your natural remedy to the next level by stirring your tea with a cinnamon stick. Cinnamon’s essential oils will help you fight offensive breath, too, as will the oils in parsley, mint, cilantro, basil, and dill. So the next time your dinner comes with a sprig of parsley, take the opportunity to freshen your breath.
8: Stave Off Coffee Breath
Acidic beverages like coffee, soda and alcohol will cause oral odors by lowering the pH level in your mouth, letting bacteria run wild. They will also release compounds into your bloodstream that will subsequently release odors through your breath.
If you can’t bear the thought of skipping your morning coffee, you can stay fresh by rinsing your mouth with water. This will bring your pH levels back to normal and stimulate your saliva to kill germs.
9: Quit Smoking
As of 2011, there were still 46.6 million smokers in America. If you’re one of them, there’s no doubt you’ve struggled with bad breath.
Cigarettes fill your mouth with a multitude of chemicals, making your cheeks and gums weaker and more susceptible to infection and disease. Smoking also dries out your mouth, and without the oxygen in your saliva, your mouth is breeding ground for bacteria that make your breath smell bad.
Even though they don’t usually inhale, cigar and pipe smokers can have these problems too.
10: Go To The Dentist
Let’s say you’ve given up garlic and sworn off all beverages except water and green tea. You’ve been brushing your tongue, and you even quit smoking, but your breath still isn’t making you any friends. Then what do you do? Pay your dentist a visit. Lots of people have bad breath simply because they haven’t had a professional cleaning in recent memory.
Dental check-ups are crucial because you have an opportunity to find the true cause of your bad breath. Most dentists will suggest you get your teeth cleaned every six months, or fewer if you have lots of sugar in your diet or get dry mouth often.
Sara Thompson writes articles about general health and covers oral health topics in collaboration with the family of dentists at Sheron Dental in Vancouver, Washington.