Beat Bad Breath
Bad breath — we have all been there. It's not unexpected after a garlicky meal or one with lots of onions, and many of us use mints or breath spray as a preventive measure. However, if you are fighting chronic halitosis (the clinical term for bad breath), then popping a couple of mints may not cut it.
Bad breath has a variety of causes, including poor dental hygiene, certain ailments, and even bad habits (over-consumption of alcohol, not brushing and flossing your teeth regularly). When leftover food particles in your mouth start to decompose they foster the growth of bad bacteria which emit hydrogen sulfide vapors and your breath becomes very smelly, indeed.
One big trigger of bad breath is dry mouth. Among other things saliva keeps our mouths clean by rinsing away dead cells that, if left to accumulate, would decay and smell. Dry mouth happens naturally during sleep (that's how you get the dreaded "morning breath"), especially if you sleep with your mouth open. Dry mouth can also be caused by certain medications, and it creates the perfect sticky environment for bacteria and plaque to cling to your teeth. Dehydration can cause dry mouth, and lead to bad breath.
Tobacco smoking or chewing can also cause dry mouth, so do yourself a favor and quit now. There will never, ever be any good news about tobacco smoking.
Certain diseases may leave a distinctively nasty mark on your breath. Lung infections can lead to very foul breath, along with some cancers, metabolic disorders, and gastric reflux disease. Kidney failure may cause a urine-like smell, while liver failure may cause a fishy smell. Sinus infections, and bronchitis or other upper respiratory infections can cause sour smelling breath, too. Your diet is another major cause of bad breath. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause an unpleasant, fruity breath smell. Starvation diets which may result in ketoacidosis which can cause bad breath. With a small child, chronic bad breath is definitely worth a visit to your health care provider.
There are several steps you can take immediately to ameliorate chronic halitosis:
- First, try brushing more often. Brush your teeth for at least two to three minutes — hum a song or use a timer. Either way, brush at least twice a day (better yet, after every meal), followed by mouthwash (avoid giving mouthwash to small children due to the alcohol content and the risk of swallowing). And don't forget to floss to remove stubborn food particles caught between teeth.
- Brush your tongue. It sounds icky but this really works. The most offensive bacteria will be toward the back of your tongue so go as far back as comfortable, and use a soft-bristle brush or tongue scraper.
- Don't forget to change your toothbrush often, at least every four to six months. (Take it easy on your gums and choose a soft bristle.)
Consider trying a few home remedies if bad breath is a real problem for you. All of these methods emphasize banishing bad bacteria, and creating an environment for good, cleansing bacteria to flourish:
- Combat dry mouth by stimulating saliva production by drinking plenty of water or chewing sugarless gum. (Look for ones with xylitol, a natural sweetener.)
- Suck on sugarless breath mints, or chew parsley or celery. Both have antibacterial and antifungal properties and offer at least a temporary bad breath fix.
- Eat plenty of yogurt, too.
See your dentist for a twice-yearly check-up and thorough cleaning. For persistent halitosis not related to oral hygiene, your dentist will likely suggest a visit to your physician.
Want to try making your own homemade mouthwash with hydrogen peroxide? Here's how, but be advised, it has to be used carefully so as not to aggravate halitosis. If you've ever gotten hydrogen peroxide on a cut then you know how painful it can be. Used on its own it can irritate and inflame slight abrasions or cuts on your cheeks and gums, and it can further aggravate dry mouth. It is essential to dilute it with water. That said, hydrogen peroxide makes a great antimicrobial mouthwash, and can very effective at ridding your mouth of the bacteria and germs that cause bad breath.
Gargle with a solution consisting of about one tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide added to eight ounces of water. Rinse well with plain water afterward.
Try this gargle before or after brushing. I prefer to do it beforehand, because brushing then removes any peroxide residue left after rinsing. Another upside: peroxide helps whiten teeth.
Another simple, temporary fix for bad breath may be clove oil. Chewing cloves has been used as a breath freshener for thousands of years. A little clove oil on a cotton ball has long been used a home remedy to relieve toothaches and sore gums. Mint oil is another well-known remedy for bad breath. All of these essential oils have antibacterial, antiviral properties, which can inhibit the growth of disease-causing, bad-breath-promoting bacteria. The strong odors of these essential oils can also go a long way in masking smelly breath.
This post was included in the blog carnival Staying Young - From the Inside Out.