Bad breath (also known as halitosis or fetor oris) is something that a lot of people fear. Knowing you have bad breath can cause significant anxiety and embarrassment, but it’s actually more common than you might realize as it affects an estimated 1 in 4 people worldwide.
While there are many reasons why someone might develop bad breath, the biggest cause is due to poor oral hygiene – such as lack of brushing and flossing the teeth. Aside from oral hygiene, you can also develop bad breath as a result of the foods you eat. Poor lifestyle habits, such as smoking or chewing tobacco, can also contribute to your breath having a bad odour. If you have bad breath that persists, it could be an indicator that you have periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a type of gum diseases that is caused when plaque builds up on the teeth, turns into bacteria, and causes gum-irritating toxins to form. If left untreated, Periodontal disease can cause further damage to the gums as well as the jawbone. If you have cavities or poorly fitting dental appliances, such as dentures, these could also potentially be contributing to your bad breath. Certain medical conditions, such as yeast infections of the mouth, respiratory tract infections (such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus infections), diabetes, kidney and liver problems, and acid reflux are also all known to be linked to bad breath.
To get rid of bad breath, the first thing doctors and dentists recommend trying is amping up your oral hygiene. You should brush your teeth a minimum of twice per day, as it’s crucial in removing food and cavity-causing plaque that would otherwise stick to your teeth. Flossing is also essential in maintaining a healthy mouth, and it is recommended that you do that at a minimum of once per day. Flossing can help reach plaque in areas that your toothbrush might have difficulty getting to. Along with getting rid of bad breath, brushing and flossing can also help keep the gums healthy and prevent things like periodontal disease, which was mentioned earlier. You can also rinse your mouth daily with a fluoride mouth wash. This type of mouth wash will not only improve the health of your teeth and gums but can also help fight bad breath.
As mentioned, there are also certain medical conditions can also contribute to bad breath, such as yeast infections of the mouth – otherwise known as oral thrush. This is a condition that is common in babies as well as in individuals who are frequently prescribed antibiotics. If you develop oral thrust, your doctor will most likely prescribe an anti-fungal medication to get rid of it. These medications are available as pills or in liquid form, and are usually taken for one week. When you have a sinus infection, they are often the result of bacteria, and it is this presence of bacterial in your nose and nasal passages that can give off the odour of bad breath. If you have a sinus infection, then you will most likely require antibiotics. However, you can also alleviate bad breath associated with sinus infections by using a saline nasal spray. Another medication called xerostomia (better known as dry mouth) is another factor of someone having bad breath. The mouth needs saliva to stay moist, wash away dead cells, and neutralize plaque-producing acids. Without it, you’re simply not getting away of any of these things, and those cells, plaque, and plaque-producing acids eventually start to decompose, resulting in bad breath. While there are some people who just happen to naturally have a dry mouth, it may also be a side effect of a medication you are on, or an indicator of a problem with your salivary gland.
Then there are the foods you eat. The biggest culprit of bad breath would have to be garlic. This is because garlic is rich in sulfuric compounds which cause odour. But that’s not all. Garlic doesn’t just cause bad breath; it’s also absorbed into the bloodstream, and when this occurs your pores emit the same bitter scent as your breath. Just like garlic, onions also contain those very same sulfuric compounds. If you do happen to consume either of these, it is often a good idea to brush and floss your teeth immediately afterwards. It should also come as no surprise that fish is another food that can give your breath a bad odour – especially canned fish like tuna. Seafood already naturally oxidizes, which increases its sour smell, and this is a process that, for whatever reason, is exacerbated when it is stored in a metallic can. What is surprising, however, is dairy – something that’s good for extra calcium, but bad for the breath. This is because when you drink dairy, the naturally occurring bacteria on your tongue feeds on its amino acids (found in things like milk and cheese), resulting in bad breath.
To temporarily mask the smell of bad breath, you might want to try sucking on a mint (but beware of the sugar content in them.) Certain foods such as green tea, fresh herbs (basil, rosemary, tarragon and cardamom), cinnamon, fruits and vegetables that are rich in fibre and vitamin C (broccoli, sweet potato, apples, oranges, melon, and berries), leafy greens (kale, spinach), and ginger have all been known to be great foods to fight bad breath – not to mention great foods to include in your diet in general due to all of their other health benefits.
Remember, if you have bad breath that persists and have already tried things like improving your dental hygiene, changing the foods you eat, as well as looking into any medications you’re on that could potentially be contributing, it may be a good idea to book an appointment with your doctor or dentist just to make sure there isn’t any kind of underlying condition going on – for example, cancer or a metabolic disease, which have both been linked to bad breath. In addition, GERD can also cause bad breath due to the reflux of stomach acids, but with the right treatment this is something you can get under control.