If you’re a person who has a mouth and who has ever eaten a meal with garlic or onions, it’s likely that you’ve had bad breath. The unpleasant, sometimes embarrassing experience plagues nearly everybody indiscriminately, affecting those with immaculate and poor dental hygiene alike. However, some people experience bad breath more intensely than others. Though bad breath is virtually inescapable, there are things you can do to combat it. Read on to learn our 5 fool-proof strategies for keeping bad breath at bay.
Before you can solve a problem, you must first name it. So, what causes bad breath? Chronic bad breath (or to use its fancy name, halitosis) affects nearly a quarter of the population globally. After tooth decay and gum disease – which both contribute to bad breath – halitosis is the third most common reason that people seek dental care. What do these people have in common?
For many, bad breath is caused by food. Food causes bacteria to form in and around the teeth, and when this bacterium is not regularly cleaned, it can cause bad breath. Poor dental hygiene that allows food particles to remain on the teeth for extended periods of time also causes bad breath. Food also affects our breath long after it leaves the mouth. When food is digested, it enters the bloodstream and travels to the lungs. When smelly foods like garlic, onions and spices enter the lungs via the bloodstream, it can affect your breath for hours after you’ve eaten.
Another common culprit is dry mouth. You may be familiar with the term “morning breath,” but do you know why this phenomenon occurs? When we sleep, saliva production is reduced, causing dry mouth. Saliva serves many purposes, and one of them is to help cleanse the mouth of food particles and bacteria, so it follows that bad-breath-causing bacteria thrives when your mouth is dry. For some people, dry mouth is a chronic issue that affects them during their waking and sleeping hours. These individuals are especially vulnerable to bad breath.
Additionally, medications and diseases can cause bad breath. Some medications contribute to dry mouth, and others release chemicals when they’re broken down in the body, which can be smelled on the breath. Sinus infections and chronic sinus inflammation can contribute to postnasal drip, which can cause bad breath. Some cancers and metabolic disorders produce chemicals that cause a distinct odor on the breath.
We’ve established what causes bad breath, but how can you stop it? The #1 way to combat bad breath is simple: practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth when you wake up, before you go to bed and after you eat, and floss at least once a day. In addition to oral hygiene, there are a few other methods you can try to keep your breath smelling minty fresh!
When it comes to stopping bad breath, you should avoid dry mouth like the plague. First, reduce or halt any activities that contribute to dry mouth, like smoking and/or chewing tobacco and drinking coffee, soft drinks and alcohol. Additionally, try to drink more water – in addition to stopping dry mouth, this will help you to be generally healthier – and chew sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production. If you’ve tried all of this and are still struggling with dry mouth, consult with your dentist to find a solution. Sometimes, dentists will prescribe medications to stimulate saliva, for instance.
Foods like onions, garlic and sugar contribute to bad breath, so it’s best to avoid these as much as possible. However, you’ll likely have a pretty bland and boring diet if you cut these out completely – I dare you to name 5 popular recipes that don’t include onions or garlic – so it can also help to add things to your diet that promote fresh breath. Hard fruits and vegetables, like apples, help scrub food particles and bacteria from your mouth, so adding these to your diet can help to combat the effects of the bad-breath foods. If you’re really concerned that the food you eat is contributing to your bad breath, consider keeping a food log to track what you eat and how it affects your breath.
Dentures, retainers, braces, etc. are the best friend of food particles and bacteria. It’s easy for food debris to get stuck in these, and if left unattended, this can contribute to bad breath. If you have dentures, be sure to clean them at least once a day to avoid bad breath, and if you wear a retainer or mouth guard, clean these prior to putting them in your mouth. Braces-wearers should add additional steps to their oral hygiene routine (like brushing and flossing between braces and potentially using a waterpik to get in hard-to-reach places) to avoid bad breath.
As stated above, bad breath can have causes that aren’t necessarily related to your dental health. Many underlying diseases and conditions can cause bad breath, so if you feel like you’ve tried everything and still cannot get your breath smelling better, make an appointment with a doctor to determine if there isn’t something more going on. Promptly addressing unexplained bad breath can help to catch underlying conditions early and allow you to receive the medical care that you need.
There are things you can do in your oral hygiene routine, in addition to brushing and flossing daily, that can reduce bad breath. Bad breath is often harbored on the tongue, on which bacteria can sometimes linger and become overgrown, so adding a tongue scraper to your oral routine can help to remove bad-breath-causing bacteria. Additionally, mouthwash can help to relieve bad breath between meals. However, be sure to use a zero-alcohol mouthwash, as mouthwashes that contain alcohol can contribute to dry mouth. Lastly, be sure to visit your dentist at least twice a year for a dental check-up and professional cleaning.
If you follow these steps, you’re sure to have consistently fresh breath in no time. If your bad breath persists, or if you’re concerned that you may be struggling with periodontal disease, reach out to a dental professional for help. Our team at San Antonio Periodontics & Implants is up to the task of addressing bad breath or any other periodontal issues our clients are struggling with. If you’re having concerns about your dental health, give us a call at 210.824.0111 to get help and schedule an appointment. You can also use our website to schedule an appointment or to read about the various services we offer, from dental check-ups to periodontal surgeries.
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