How to Banish Bad Breath

You’ve tried mints, gum and mouthwash but nothing works. Bad breath is affecting your social life, causing you to shy away from your loved ones and preventing you from speaking up at work. You’ve already spent a small fortune to cover it up, but it never stays away for very long. What really causes bad breath and how can you get rid of it?

Is it Temporary or Chronic?
Temporary bad breath can occur after eating certain foods, such as onions and cabbage, which contain high levels of sulfur compounds. When these foods are digested, the sulfur compounds are absorbed by the bloodstream, carried to the lungs and released in the form of bad breath when you exhale or speak. Changing your diet to avoid foods like these can help prevent this type of bad breath.

Chronic halitosis, or long-term bad breath, is another story.

Bacteria flourish on your tongue, especially towards the back third. These bacteria break down the leftover food in your mouth, resulting in substances called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). These VSCs are the most common cause of bad breath. To treat this kind of bad breath you need to reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth.

The bacteria responsible for bad breath thrive when your mouth is dry. Conventional mouthwash, which contains alcohol, dries out your mouth and may actually cause bad breath more than it helps. Instead of an alcohol-based mouthwash, look for alcohol-free varieties or products that contain "chlorine dioxide," which attacks the VSCs at the molecular level to treat bad breath at the source instead of just covering up the smell.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by maintaining good oral hygiene—regular flossing (daily) and brushing of the teeth and tongue (at least twice per day). The tongue is a hotbed of bacterial growth, harboring millions of organisms in a bunch of tiny nooks and crannies. The most efficient way of cleaning the tongue is with a tongue scraper, a special tool made of plastic or metal that is scraped along the surface to remove the film of bacteria. The scraper should be placed as far back on the tongue as you can to remove the most bacteria as possible.

While you can brush your tongue with a regular toothbrush, a study by The Cochrane Collaboration found that tongue scrapers are more efficient at removing bacteria, removing 44 percent of VSCs (compared to the 30 percent removed by simply brushing the tongue).

Out with the Bad, In with the Good
Help the world smell a lot sweeter by applying these tips to prevent and treat bad breath:
  • Drink plenty of water. A moist mouth is inhospitable to the bacteria responsible for bad breath. Water also dilutes the concentration of VSCs, making them weaker and less pungent.
  • Brush and floss regularly. Brush and floss as soon as possible after meals to minimize the amount of bacteria in your mouth. Buy a tongue scraper (about $3) to reduce the amount of bacteria even more.
  • Treat any existing oral diseases. See your dentist regularly, especially if you suspect any type of oral disease, periodontal problem or infection.
  • Eat crunchy fruits and vegetables. Chewing apples, celery and cucumber helps keep your mouth naturally clean by removing food particles and plaque while you eat. They also increase saliva flow to keep your mouth moist.
  • Cut out coffee. Coffee leaves a film on your tongue that blocks oxygen, creating the perfect environment for bacteria growth. Switch to tea if you need a caffeine fix.
  • Chew sugarless gum. Chewing gum will help keep your mouth moist and increase saliva flow. Because the bacteria in your mouth easily break down most sugars into VSCs, choose sugarless gum and say no to mints that contain sugar.
  • Eat yogurt. Some research shows that eating one serving of yogurt daily can reduce the amount of odor-causing particles, including bacteria, in the mouth.
  • Get your vitamins. Vitamin D creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria. Enjoy plenty of vitamin D-fortified foods (such as milk and other dairy products). Vitamin C (found in berries melons and citrus fruit) also makes your mouth inhospitable to bacteria, but can also help prevent two other causes of bad breath—gum disease and gingivitis.
  • Avoid tobacco products. Any kind of tobacco (smoked or chewed) can cause bad breath and a host of oral health problems and diseases.
  • Avoid trigger foods. Onions and garlic are two well-known causes of bad breath.
  • Check your medicine cabinet. Bad breath is often a side effect of both prescription and over-the-counter medications. Take them as directed, and unless otherwise instructed, drink plenty of water along with your medication.
It can also be caused by certain oral conditions such as mouth cancer, candidiasis (thrush or fungal overgrowth) and dry mouth (xerostomia). Postnasal drip, sinus infections and gastrointestinal diseases can also cause bad breath. If your bad breath cannot be treated with proper oral hygiene, visit your health care provider to find out if you are suffering from an underlying health condition.

Although bad breath happens to the best of us, it's an embarrassing topic for many. No one enjoys being told their breath stinks, and it's equally (if not more) difficult to tell someone else that they need a mint. Once the awkwardness wears off, you can feel happy that someone you know cared enough to tell you honestly so that you can prevent and treat it. Put your best breath forward!
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Member Comments

That was really painful…i mean living all your life suffering from bad breath… well, count me in, i ve been suffering from this affliction since i was 13 years old…im 28 now, although its so disgusting and degrading, it never hindered me from doing what i want most in life…To speak…yeah, i can never really express my feelings verbally that much because i am aware that people are offended by my stinking breath, but guess what,even though I brushed & flossed at least twice every day.Couple of fews months ago My husband suggested I try A herbal doctor call Dr,Alli that he saw people testifying about his great work,I contacted him via (Allispellhelp1@g he prepared the herbs immediately and sent it to me through DHL fast delivering services,After sticking to him for a couple of days as i was instructed my bad breath was totally cured permanently.He can as well cured the following diseases (Genital herpes) (diabetic) (infertility problem) (Hepatitis b\c) Call/ WhatsApp +2348100772528. goodluck Report
Good article. Report
Good need-to-know information. Report
Good info. Report
great article....very helpful. thank you http://stoptonsil
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My sister has problem of bad breath. This tips & advises would surely help her. Thankuu for sharing this article. Report
thanks Report
I have had bad breath, lost my job due to it. tried to find a new job but it's very hard once you stink up the office. I had tonsil stones and awful bad breath. My friend told me to Google Oraltech Labs as it got rid of his bad breath and his post nasal drip. I've been following Oraltech Labs for about 2 weeks now and I feel much better, also people are not avoiding me anymore so it seems to have cured my bad breath as well. Report
I have had bad breath, lost my job due to it. tried to find a new job but it's very hard once you stink up the office. I had tonsil stones and awful bad breath. My friend told me to Google Oraltech Labs as it got rid of his bad breath and his post nasal drip. I've been following Oraltech Labs for about 2 weeks now and I feel much better, also people are not avoiding me anymore so it seems to have cured my bad breath as well. Report
Good to have this info. Especially the advantages of the tongue scraper. I had thought it was just another gimmic. And the info on Listerine...price
less. I will try the honey and lemon also.
om products work really well they oxidize the surlfur compounds without alchol. the Mouthwash is amazing it really works you can but this stuff at CVS but I agree about the diet playing a huge role espically dairy it give people bad breath... yuck! Report
Very good article. Report
This is a wonderful article! I learned a lot from the comments also. I will stop using Listerine and share this article with my adult Son. Report
As a dental hygienist, I think you covered the importance of good dental hygiene, as well as many other factors that contribute to bad breath. I will print this article and share it with my patients! Report
thanks for these posts.....I have tried so many things to get rid of the bad breathe for my grandson ...we gave up alcohol mouthwash years ago and went to non.....only helped for a few hours. Report


About The Author

Leanne Beattie
Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.