Bad breath, also called halitosis, can be embarrassing and in some cases may even cause anxiety. It’s no wonder that store shelves are overflowing with gum, mints, mouthwashes and other products designed to fight bad breath. But many of these products are only temporary measures because they don’t address the cause of the problem.
Causes of Bad Breath
Most bad breath starts in your mouth, and there are many possible causes. They include:
- Food. The breakdown of food particles in and around your teeth can increase bacteria and cause a foul odor. Eating certain foods, such as onions, garlic, and other vegetables and spices, also can cause bad breath. After you digest these foods, they enter your bloodstream, are carried to your lungs and affect your breath.
- Tobacco products. Smoking causes its own unpleasant mouth odor. Smokers and oral tobacco users are also more likely to have gum disease, another source of bad breath.
- Poor dental hygiene. If you don’t brush and floss daily, food particles remain in your mouth, causing bad breath.
- Dry mouth. Saliva helps cleanse your mouth, removing particles that may cause bad odors. A condition called dry mouth — also known as xerostomia can contribute to bad breath because production of saliva is decreased. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep, leading to “morning breath,” and is made worse if you sleep with your mouth open.
- Infections in your mouth. Bad breath can be caused by surgical wounds after oral surgery, such as tooth removal, or as a result of tooth decay, gum disease or mouth sores.
- Other mouth, nose and throat conditions. Bad breath can occasionally stem from small stones that form in the tonsils and are covered with bacteria that produce odorous chemicals. Infections or chronic inflammation in the nose, sinuses or throat, which can contribute to postnasal drip, also can cause bad breath.
- Medications. Some medications can indirectly produce bad breath by contributing to dry mouth. Others can be broken down in the body to release chemicals that can be carried on your breath.
- Other causes. Diseases, such as some cancers, and conditions such as metabolic disorders, can cause a distinctive breath odor as a result of chemicals they produce. Chronic reflux of stomach acids (gastroesophageal reflux disease) can be associated with bad breath. Bad breath in young children may be caused by a foreign body, such as a small toy or piece of food, lodged in a nostril.
Check If You Have a Bad Breath
Look at your teeth. Are they white, yellow, or just plain dirty and stained? Think about your diet. Do you have spicy foods a lot? Do you have strong smelling foods (including garlic) a lot?
Lick your wrist with your tongue and wait until the saliva dries. Smell your wrist to smell what the top of your tongue smells like.
Use a teaspoon, turn it up-side-down and scrape the back of your tongue to collect some of the “white stuff” that is there. Smelling this will tell you what others smell on your breath. You can also use your fingernail to scrape the back of your tongue and collect some “white stuff” to smell.
Floss your back teeth and smell the floss.
Some people can smell their own breath by cupping a hand over your mouth and breathe out through your mouth and then breathe in through your nose. This method is not as reliable as the spoon method.
Find someone you trust to ask. The funny thing is, nearly a quarter of people who seek medical attention for bad breath, don’t actually have bad breath. That is a condition called halophobia. So if you think you have a problem, find someone you trust to give you an honest assessment. If you can’t find anyone to give you this opinion, you probably have bigger problem than just your breath.
Adjust Yourself to Get Rid of Bad Breath
Keep your mouth moisturized. A dry mouth is a stinky mouth. That’s why your breath is worse in the morning; your mouth produces less saliva as you sleep. Saliva is the enemy of bad breath because not only does it physically wash bacteria and food particles away, but it also has antiseptic and enzymes that kill bacteria.
- Chewing gum stimulates saliva production (in addition to covering up the odor with some kind of scent). Mints do not encourage saliva production.
- Dry mouth can be caused by certain medications and medical conditions. Ask your doctor about switching medications, or addressing the underlying condition.
Clean your mouth thoroughly and regularly; also brushing between the tongue and teeth, not just to look good, but for oral health and cleaner breath.
Two major sources of mouth odor are bacteria and decaying food particles. There are hundreds of nooks and crannies in the fertile landscape of your mouth where these offending bits of “rot” can get lodged. Brushing is not enough.
- Clean your tongue. Your tongue, unfortunately, is like a shaggy carpet where all kinds of smelly stuff can hide. Suction your tongue, a little — and always swish your drinks all around the mouth and between teeth to dislodge some of this this material. When you brush your teeth (which should be at least twice a day): Use your toothbrush, the edge of a spoon, or a tongue cleaner to “scrape” your tongue.
- Floss. Make it as much of a mindless habit as brushing your teeth. At first, your gums might bleed as you dislodge chunks of food that have “stuck” to your teeth and gum for who knows how long. But take a second to smell the floss after you pass it through your teeth, if you dare. You’ll see (or smell) where the bad breath is coming from.
- Use mouthwash. Mouthwash helps to keep your mouth moist and helps to prevent bad breath.
Get regular dental check-ups. Going to the dentist is actually super important to maintaining your oral health, which will help prevent and manage your bad breath. Your dentist will notice if your bad breath is caused by something more serious than simply food or drink, or not having brushed properly.
- If you have a lot of bad breath issues and you’re following a strict healthy mouth regime (with brushing and eating properly), then you should definitely make an appointment to see your dentist.
Eat certain foods. While avoiding the foods outlined above, there are some foods that you should be eating if you’re looking to get rid of and prevent bad breath. Of course, most of these are the good for you fruits and veggies that your parents always made you eat, but there are others as well.
- Try eating sugar-free yogurt once a day. Yogurt with good bacteria (probiotic bacteria) prevents bad breath by reducing the levels of bad breath causing sulfide compounds.
- Stock up on vitamin-D rich foods like salmon, orange juice or eggs, since vitamin-d helps reduce bad breath.
- Various herbs and spices might be linked to reducing bad breath, as well, because of their chlorophyll, although this is not entirely certain. Try adding cloves, anise, and fennel seeds to your diet.
Eat a banana. You probably already know to avoid notorious stink foods like onions, garlic, cheese, and coffee (or at least brush vigorously after eating them). But did you know that if you’re on a low-carb diet, you might have “ketone breath”? Basically, as your body breaks down fats instead of carbs for energy, it creates ketones, some of which are released in your mouth. Unfortunately, ketones smell bad, and so will your breath. If you’re on a strict carb-restricting diet, or any diet that forces you to burn fat instead of carbs, consider throwing healthy carb-rich snacks into the mix, like apples or bananas.
- This will also happen to anyone who fasts, whether for religious reasons, or because they are anorexic. If you are anorexic, bad breath is only one of the reasons to stop starving yourself.
Choose your gum carefully. As mentioned in the previous step, any gum will help with bad breath because the chewing action results in more saliva being produced. Some gums, however, have better bad-breath-fighting abilities than others:
- Cinnamon flavoring seems to be especially effective in reducing bacteria counts in your mouth.
- Look for gum sweetened with xylitol. For one thing, sugar’s not good for your mouth. Xylitol is a sugar substitute that actually works to prevent bacteria from replicating in the mouth.
Talk to a doctor. If you have followed the above steps diligently and the bad breath persists, you may have a medical issue that needs to be treated. Here are some of the potential culprits:
- Diabetic ketoacidosis. If you have diabetes, it may be causing your body to burn fat instead of glucose, creating the ketone breath referred to in the previous step. This is a serious condition that needs to be treated as soon as possible.
- Trimethylaminuria. If your body can’t break down a chemical called trimethylamine, it will be released in your saliva, causing bad breath. It’ll also be released in your sweat, so persistent body odor might be an accompanying symptom.
- Tonsil stones. These are lumps of calcified food, mucus and bacteria that appear as white spots on your tonsils. If seen, they can be mistaken for a throat infection, although sometimes they are not visible to the naked eye. You might also notice a metallic taste in your mouth, and/or pain when swallowing.
How to Get Rid of Bad Breath from Onion or Garlic
Drink lots of water. One problem that can cause bad breath or make bad breath worse is having a dry mouth. Water is odor-free and helps to flush out the food that bacteria loves. It also helps promote saliva which cleanses the mouth and eliminates the stink-causing substances in food.
- Don’t use coffee, sodas, or alcohol to cleanse your mouth. They will not help prevent bad breath and, in many causes, are actually the causes of your bad breath.
- Green tea and lemonade will be helpful in washing out the odor from your mouth.
Eat minty foods to freshen up your breath. Fresh parsley, mints and minty tea can all remove the odor from onion and garlic. Gum with xylitol is particularly good for freshening up your mouth.
Use mustard. Take a teaspoon of mustard and swish it around your mouth for a minute before spitting it out. Then take another half-teaspoon and swallow. This will go down to the stomach and kill the smell throughout your body.
Chew on ginger. Cut a little piece of ginger and chew on it for a minute if you’re brave enough. Caution; The ginger may taste spicy. Be sure to drink water after you spit out the piece of ginger. Alternatively, chew on ginger candy. It’s not that spicy and it’s delicious.
Eat parsley. It may not have the most pleasant taste to some, but it smells great, and will rid you of the smell of that garlic Alfredo you just ate.
Have a slice of bread. A lack of carbs can also contribute to bad breath, so have a slice of bread with your next meal.
Drink a shot of vodka. Alcohol kills bacteria in the mouth, which will remove bad breath. Vodka is particularly good because it does not have a lingering aftertaste.
Eat vegetables to counter the smell. Mashed potatoes, mushrooms, lemons and carrots can all improve your breath. If you’re eating a meal with lots of garlic or onion, it would be smart to follow-up with these vegetables in the same meal.
Use sugar-free gum or mints. Like water, sugar-free gums or mints can help speed up the production of saliva in your mouth and help flush out the bad bacteria. Chewing gum, especially those kinds with cinnamon, is great in covering up bad smells. They can also cover up bad breath for a short period of time.
- Make sure that you are using sugar-free gum and mints, though, because sugars can help feed the bad bacteria, which will make your bad breath worse or maintain it at the same level once the gum or mint is gone.
Use salt (it’ll be sitting on the table), if you can take it without raising suspicious glances. As an alternative, leave for the bathroom and ask the waiter to kindly bring you a little bit of salt for medicinal purposes. Gargle it to neutralize some of the odor. It is more effective if combined with baking soda.
Use breath sprays. Breath sprays are cheap and tastes really good. They can make your breath smell nice in no time.
Try mouthwash. Mouthwash is another way to deal with the immediate effects of bad breath. This will only provide you with a temporary mask for the bad breath, but that can be enough to get away from people.
- An antiseptic mouthwash will kill the bad bacteria, so if you get that it will help do more than just mask the bad odor. Look for mouthwashes with hlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, chlorine dioxide, zinc chloride and triclosan, as these kill bacteria.
- Avoid using a chlorhexidine-containing mouthwash long-term as this can stain your teeth (although this is reversible). Also, do not give mouthwash to children, especially if they are likely to swallow it.
- Try not to use mouthwashes with alcohol, especially if you are a kid, it makes your mouth very dry.
- Never final rinse your mouth with acid products such as vinegar or lemon juice (also, rinse out sugary drink, anytime): those can, over time, decay your teeth badly. So, it would be a rule to rinse those out of your mouth, every time!
- Sometimes bad breath is caused by any of the several medical conditions. See your doctor if you are concerned, or if it persists.
- Beware of gum with xylitol if you have pets- it can be toxic to dogs.
- Avoid tooth loss: Get teeth cleaned, preferably, every 6 months (or at least once a year, if it costs too much). This will prevent accumulation of calculus or tartar (a form of hardened dental plaque) and other minerals from your own saliva accumulating and hardening the plaque on the teeth. Those deposits chip away at the attachment between the gums and teeth, and over the years, cause more and more teeth to loosen as well as causing sickening abscesses.
- “Deep pockets” form around the base of the teeth that are “not” flossed regularly; these are full of decaying food particles and germs that cause bad breath — and can lead to abscessed teeth (painful, infected gums).
- Mouthwash is only a temporary fix. It masks the odor.
- Gargle with salt water morning and evening after you brush.
- Try to brush after every meal.
- Apples will help and it will get food that is stuck in your teeth.
- Replace your toothbrush as soon as it starts wearing out.
- Floss often after you brush your teeth, and use mouthwash if it helps (always read the label first).
- Mouthwash- at least once a day. Brush- twice a day. Floss-twice a day. Drink water- 6-8 times a day.
- Flossing is just as important as brushing. If you are in a situation where you do not have a toothbrush, try to find temporary dental floss.
- Using the same flavour of lipgloss and gum helps to make the smell around your mouth stronger and last longer.
- Always carry a pack of dental floss on the go.
- Use lemon juice to rinse your mouth before rinsing with water or mouth wash.
- Cider vinegar helps with bad breath also. Take a teaspoon full before brushing and rinsing with mouth wash.
- Opt for fresh onion or garlic instead of their powdered forms. Most cooks don’t hydrate powders fully when cooking, which results in using too much garlic/onion powder and the powder hydrating in the body.
- Use breath spray or mints before a meeting or date; unless you want people noticing your garlic breath.
- The smell of bad breath from eating onion or garlic will also dissipate over time.
- Sometimes, the smell of garlic can also seep through the pores of your skin or linger on your clothes, so spraying yourself with perfume/cologne is also a good idea.