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How to Prevent Bad Breath

It is never a good sign that when you open your mouth to speak that people around you begin to wince. While some dismiss this reaction as a response to their words, others do a quick spot check to find their breath is less than minty fresh. Bad breath is a common occurrence that may come as a fleeting slip-up after eating garlic pizza or develop after a hard night’s rest. Today, an array of mouthwashes, gums, and mints are created to assist in the control of unpleasant odors in the mouth. In the end, bad breath prevention can stop embarrassment in its tracks.

How to Prevent Bad Breath

What is Bad Breath?

Oral malodor is the scientific name given to halitosis (bad breath), which involves the sometimes repulsive or “off” scent of the breath that occurs during exhaled breathing. It doesn’t even have to come from an oral source, as there is a wide-range of factors that can contribute to halitosis [1]. Whether for personal or social reasons, bad breath is such an important condition that it is the third most common reason that sends people seeking dental assistance (after tooth decay and periodontal disease) [2].

A variety of outside factors can contribute to the development of bad breath, as we come in contact with odorous foods and an excess of lifestyle behaviors. Depending on your habits, bad breath is sometimes transient, meaning it disappears after eating, flossing, brushing the teeth, or rinsing with a mouthwash. Others suffer persistent bad breath (also known as chronic bad breath), which is much more serious and affects about 25% of the population in many different ways.

Bad breath is also behind numerous negative outcomes, as it can affect social, personal, and business interaction, as well as lead to a poor image of self. Increased stress is also associated with bad breath.

Causes and Risk Factors of Bad Breath [3]

Every day, you face the risk of tainting your breath with the things you eat and do. Some of the many causes and risk factors of bad breath include:

a) Food:

Not only does improper tooth brushing leave behind food particles in and about your teeth that later break down and cause nasty odor, but also leaves lingering impressions of recently eaten food. This is commonly seen in foods that contain volatile oils, such as onions and garlic. Numerous vegetables and spices also corrupt the breath. Additionally, fish, cheese, and meat are also common offenders.

b) Dental Problems:

Bad breath is also a result of poor dental habits, as well as periodontal disease. Slack on the tooth brushing and flossing – and food particles transform into bacteria that discharge hydrogen sulfur vapors.

c) Dry Mouth:

A dry mouth allows dead cells to gather on your tongue, gums, and inside of your cheeks. As these cells decompose, an odor is emitted. Usually, this event takes place in the middle of the night when you are asleep and when you wake, you are left with what is referred to as “morning breath.” Chronic dry mouth is sometimes a result of sleeping with your mouth open, taking certain medications, or smoking tobacco.

d) Disease:

Conditions that affect the lungs or kidneys lead to the production of unpleasantly smelling breath. The chronic reflux of stomach acids associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also generate bad breath. Until a throat infection heals, halitosis sometimes accompanies a bout of strep throat, tonsillitis, or mononucleosis. Additional medical concerns associated with bad breath include sinus infections; lodged objects in the nose; bronchitis; upper respiratory infection; and canker sores.

e) Tobacco Products:

Since smoking dries out the mouth, an unwanted odor about the mouth is the result. Additionally, those who use tobacco products also face a higher risk of developing periodontal disease, which is also associated with bad breath.

f) Intense Dieting:

During a fast or lack of food, some dieters experience a disagreeable breath that tastes a bit “fruity,” which is a result of the breakdown of chemicals known as ketoacidosis.

The Negative Effects of Bad Breath

Bad breath is embarrassing and has the power to make people self-conscious when they speak; increasingly shy and unwilling to meet new people; and could surface as an indicator of something more serious. Chronic bad breath is sometimes a symptom of a variety of medical concerns, including lung abscesses, lung infections, kidney failure, liver failure, uncontrolled diabetes, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

How to Prevent Bad Breath

In order to prevent the embarrassment of bad breath, there are many different things one can do to lessen the risk. Below are a few suggestions to keep in mind:

a) Clean the Tongue:

When you gently clean the surface of the tongue, you can eliminate some of the bacteria that cause bad breath. Some people use a tongue brush, tongue scraper, or other cleaner to remove the bacterial debris and film that accumulates. It is important not to scrape at the tongue too hard or you risk damaging taste buds. To prevent further bacterial action, you should use a mouth rinse or tongue gel. In the worst cases, this practice should be repeated more than two times per day.

b) Chew Gum:

To combat the bad breath that comes with dry mouth, consider slipping in a piece of chewing gum every now and then. Chewing sugarless gum can increase the production of saliva, which can lessen bad breath. You may even find a chewing gum that contains specialized ingredients that combats odors in the mouth.

c) Eat Breakfast:

When you consume a hearty breakfast consisting of rough foods, you can cleanse the very back of the tongue where odor-causing bacteria like to dwell.

d) Folk Remedies:

Common folk remedies for preventing bad breath include chewing on fennel seeds, fresh parsley, or cinnamon sticks. You may also chew on coriander, spearmint, tarragon, eucalyptus, rosemary, and cardamom for the same results [4].

e) Drink Lots of Water:

In order to keep the mouth moist, drinking a lot of water helps remove food particles and washes bacteria away [5].

f) Gargle:

Before you retire for the night, gargle with an effective mouthwash. On the market, there are plenty of commercial selections that can reduce bad odor in the mouth for hours.

g) Proper Oral Hygiene:

In order to prevent bad breath, proper dental habits are a must. This includes daily brushing and flossing. Many people underestimate the power of flossing, as it is one of the only ways to remove food particles and bacteria from between the teeth – especially the kind that settles along the gumline. Regular dental checkups and cleanings are also important when keeping in line with appropriate dental care.

h) Denture Cleaning:

Sometimes dentures can cause bad breath, which is corrected with proper cleaning and overnight soaking in an antibacterial solution.

i) Crunch on Fruits and Vegetables:

Some people have been able to fight halitosis by crunching on fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, celery, and apples. Not only does saliva production rise, but also unwanted particles are washed away in the process.

j) Vitamin C:

Not only does a diet rich in vitamin C help prevent gum disease and gingivitis, but consuming berries, melons, and citrus fruits make unfavorable conditions for bacteria in the mouth.

k) Quit Smoking:

If you use tobacco products, then your mouth is more susceptible to drying out, which can leave an unpleasant odor behind – not to mention that cigarettes aren’t one of the best smelling items you can place in your mouth in the first place [6].

l) Neem:

Mouthwashes containing neem fight the bacteria that lead to unpleasant smelling breath [7].

m) Green Tea:

When sipping tea, choose the green variety, as it contains compounds that kill the bacteria associated with bad breath. It is suggested to sip a cup of green tea after finishing a meal.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halitosis
[2] Loesche WJ, Kazor C. Microbiology and treatment of halitosis. Periodontology 2000. 2002;28:256-79.
[3] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bad-breath/DS00025/DSECTION=2
[4] http://health.msn.com/centers/oralhealth/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100124024
[5] http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/bad-breath
[6] p://dentistry.about.com/od/toothmouthconditions/tp/prevbadbreath.htm
[7] Earl Mindell’s New Herb Bible by Earl Mindell (pg. 245)

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