If you suffer from bad breath, also called halitosis, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 50 percent of people in the United States complain of having halitosis. Although bad breath isn’t always a serious medical problem, it can negatively impact your quality of life.
The good news is that there are ways to manage halitosis. Discover the reasons behind bad breath, ways to control it, and the most effective breath fresheners.
Causes of halitosis
There are many reasons why you may have bad breath. Understanding these reasons can help you take the steps to keep it at bay.
Food and drink
If you tend to have bad breath after a meal, it’s likely due to the type of food or drink you consume. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Eating certain foods, such as onions, garlic 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.”
Bad breath that is caused by food and/or drink should go away over time. If the bad breath is persistent, an oral health problem or other condition may be the culprit.
Poor oral hygiene
Poor oral hygiene is often the cause behind chronic bad breath. Without good oral health habits, particles of leftover food and debris can cause an overgrowth of bacteria in your mouth that can lead to several oral health problems, including halitosis. Brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and using a tongue scraper to clear it of its coating may be the most effective breath fresheners.
Your mouth uses saliva to keep it moist and as a cleanser. If your body is not producing enough saliva, bad breath may be a result. Some medical conditions and medications cause dry mouth, so talk to your dentist if it’s a concern.
Tonsil stones occur when food particles get trapped in your tonsils and become calcified. These “stones” can emit strong odors. Simple remedies from tonsil stones include gargling with salt water or using a waterpik to rinse them. If you’re unable to remove the stones at home, be sure to talk with your dentist for other options.
Certain medical conditions
According to the Mayo Clinic, certain medical conditions, such as pneumonia, diabetes, GERD, head and neck cancers, and liver disease can cause chronic bad breath. These conditions can be serious so be sure to reach out to your primary care physician if you have concerns.
How to control bad breath
Small changes in your lifestyle can help control bad breath.
Brush and floss. A good oral care routine of brushing your teeth – and your tongue – twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing regularly is important to the quality of your breath (and your oral health!).
Drink plenty of water. Water washes away food debris and keeps your mouth moist. Tap water often contains fluoride, a naturally occurring chemical that helps prevent tooth decay.
Most effective breath fresheners
There are many breath freshener products for the times when you need to freshen your breath but don’t have a toothbrush nearby.
Items such as sugar-free gum, sprays, and breath mints provide temporary relief from bad breath by increasing saliva, and they have the added benefit of the smell of the flavoring. Sugar-free gum will help dislodge food from your teeth after a meal. If chewing gum isn’t an option due to conditions such as jaw soreness, sugar-free mints are another great option.
Mouthwash, or mouthrinse, can also serve as a breath freshener. The two main types of mouthrinses are cosmetic and therapeutic.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), cosmetic mouthrinses “temporarily control bad breath and leave behind a pleasant taste, but have no chemical or biological application beyond their temporary benefit.” In contrast, therapeutic mouthrinses “have active ingredients intended to help control or reduce conditions like bad breath, gingivitis, plaque, and tooth decay.”
Good oral health is the most effective breath freshener
At the end of the day, no amount of gum, sprays, or mints will be as effective at controlling bad breath as a good oral health routine. Taking care of your teeth and seeing your dentist twice a year are the best actions to keep your breath smelling fresh.
For more tips on good oral hygiene, check out, “Creating lifelong oral health habits starts at the dentist”.