Everyone worries about bad breath from time to time, especially after eating garlic or drinking a cup of coffee.
Bad breath, also called halitosis can be caused by a number of factors:
- The types of food you eat
- Smoking and drinking
- Poor oral hygiene
- Cavities or gum disease
- Certain illnesses
There are some quick remedies that can freshen your breath temporarily, but if the bad breath persists, you might have to contact your dentist to get it checked.
We discuss in details the underlying causes of halitosis and share 12 Tips On How to Prevent or Get Rid of Bad Breath.
Food that can cause bad breath
Certain foods such as onions, garlic, scallions or chives may cause bad breath because they contain smelly sulphur compounds. Dairy, meat, and fish contain dense proteins which are used as a food source by the anaerobic, sulphur-producing bacteria, the common cause of bad breath in your mouth.
Eating refined and processed sugars e.g. a dessert after a dense protein meal, or drinking coffee or juice can trigger this problem as they create an acidic environment which is an ideal breeding ground for the bacteria. Crash dieting, fasting and low-carbohydrate diets, such as the Atkins or Keto diet, can also cause halitosis. These diets cause the body to break down fat, and this process produces chemicals called ketones that can be smelt on the breath.
Smoking and drinking
Smoking and drinking a lot of alcohol can also affect your breath. Nicotine is proven to reduce the production of saliva in the mouth and saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria build-up. A lack of moisture in your mouth may make you susceptible to halitosis (bad breath).
Poor oral hygiene
In most cases, bad breath is caused by poor oral hygiene. If you don’t maintain proper oral hygiene, the bacteria in your mouth multiplies rapidly. These bacteria break down trapped food particles, producing foul-smelling sulphur compounds. You should therefore brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day – morning and evening.
If you are wearing braces, you should brush your teeth and rinse your mouth not just morning and evening, but every time after you eat.
Dentures should be taken out every night and brushed with a soft bristle brush to remove the plaque and the remains of food. In addition to brushing, you should soak your dentures each night in a special cleaning solution to kill the remaining bacteria.
Bad breath caused by cavities or gum disease
Bad breath may be the result of a dental abscess, tooth decay or gum disease. Regular dental check-ups can help spot the early signs of tooth and gum decay and prevent bad breath from developing.
Many medicines can cause bad breath by drying up your saliva. Seven out of the top ten prescribed medicines list dry mouth as a side effect.
The worst culprits tend to be medicines that treat:
- Nasal congestion
- Urinary incontinence
- Parkinson’s disease
If you are on any of these medications and experiencing bad breath, talk to your physician and dentist. Try to avoid diuretics such as coffee that can make your dry mouth worse.
Illnesses that can cause bad breath
Postnasal drip, respiratory and tonsil infections, sinus problems, diabetes, chronic acid reflux, and liver or kidney problems may cause bad breath. If your bad breath persists, and it is not caused by the food, medication, poor oral hygiene or dental problems, you should have it checked with your physician.
- A cheesy smell usually indicates your bad breath has a nasal origin e.g post nasal drip, sinus problems, nasal polyps.
- A fruity smell may indicate uncontrolled diabetes
- A fishy smell may indicate kidney disease
- An acidic smell can be a sign of asthma or cystic fibrosis
- A smell of ammonia can indicate kidney problems
- A sweet, musty odour may signal liver cirrhosis
It is therefore important that you have it checked.
12 Tips On How to Prevent or Get Rid of Bad Breath
Besides the commonly given advice to have regular dental check-ups, to stop smoking and to brush and floss our teeth twice a day, below there are some tips that can help you get your mouth smelling sweet again.
- Use an antiseptic mouthwash just before bedtime. Look for an alcohol-free mouthwash, and ingredients like menthol, eucalyptol or thymol instead.
- Drink plenty of fluids. If you’re not drinking enough water, your salivary flow decreases, which can cause breath to be more concentrated.
- Swap out your afternoon coffee for a cup of green or black tea instead. Both contain polyphenols, which prevent the growth of bacteria.
- Chew sugarless gum if your mouth feels dry. It increases saliva in your mouth.
- Take a probiotic supplement or eat some plain, unsweetened yoghurt every day. It may help to cut down on candida yeast that lives on the surface of the tongue and revive good bacterial flora in your gut.
- Skip the dessert and coffee if you had a protein dense meal e.g. steak or a roast
- Eat fibre-rich vegetables or fruit such as raw carrots, apples and celery.
- Eat a piece of orange or chew on a lemon or orange rind to freshen your breath.
- Parsley can have a deodorising effect. Chew on fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves after a meal, especially if it had garlic in it.
- Chew on a slice of pineapple. While there is no scientific study to back it up, many people report that it works.
- Since ancient times, fennel and anise seeds have been used to freshen breath. In parts of India, roasted fennel seeds are still used as mouth fresheners.
- Green tea is an effective home remedy for bad breath. Research shows that green tea has disinfectant and deodorizing properties that can temporarily freshen the breath. Mint has similar effects, so a cup of green mint tea may be an ideal breath freshener.
- And if you prefer science to nature – CB12 range which includes toothpaste, oral rinse. chewing gum and spray has active ingredients that neutralise unpleasant breath instead of just masking it.