What’s even more humiliating and socially unacceptable than the remains of a spinach salad speckled across a toothy grin? Yes, it’s bad breath.
Halitosis. A foul odor emanating from the mouth. It’s not a medical emergency, of course, but some 25 to 30 percent of the world’s population suffer with this distressing problem.
The origins of bad breath are not mysterious: dental cavities, gum disease, poor oral hygiene, coated tongue (a white or yellow coating on the tongue, usually due to inflammation) are among the most common. Hundreds of bacteria live in our mouths and some of them—on the tongue or below the gumline or in pockets created by gum disease between gums and teeth, for example—create sulfurous smells. Other causes may include malnutrition (fat breakdown gives your breath a fruity odor), uncontrolled diabetes, and dry mouth (saliva has an antimicrobial effect). Infections such as sore throat or sinusitis, or intestinal disorders, such as heartburn, ulcers, and lactose intolerance, also result in bad breath.
Here are 11 ways to fight bad breath:
- If you wear dentures, remove them at night and clean to get rid of bacterial buildup from food and drink.
- Drink plenty of water and swish cool water around in your mouth. This is especially helpful to freshen “morning breath.”
- Brush after every meal and floss, preferably twice a day.
- Replace your toothbrush every two to three months.
- Arrange regular dental checkups and cleanings.
- Scrape your tongue each morning with a tongue scraper or spoon to decrease the bacteria, fungi, and dead cells that can cause odor. Hold the tip of the tongue with gauze to pull it forward in order to clean the back of the tongue.
- Chew a handful of cloves, fennel seeds, or aniseeds. Their antiseptic qualities help fight halitosis-causing bacteria.
- Chew a piece of lemon or orange rind for a mouth- freshening burst of flavor. (Wash the rind thoroughly first.) The citric acid will stimulate the salivary glands—and fight bad breath.
- Chew a fresh sprig of parsley, basil, mint, or cilantro. The chlorophyll in these green plants neutralizes odors.
- Try a 30-second mouthwash rinse that is alcohol-free (unike many off-the-shelf products). Mix a cup of water with a teaspoon of baking soda (which changes the pH level and fights odor in the mouth) and a few drops of antimicrobial peppermint essential oil. Don’t swallow it! (Yields several rinses.)