If you have bad breath, you’re not alone. Bad breath or halitosis affects one in four people and can cause a great deal of psychological distress. In fact, it’s one of the most common reasons people seek dental care. It may come from something as simple as what you’ve eaten, or on rare occasions, it could be a sign of something more serious. While it may be embarrassing, it’s not the end of the world. Fortunately, once you figure out what’s causing your bad breath, you can fix it. Here’s why your breath may stink so bad and what you can do about it.
Poor oral hygiene habits
There may be many reasons why your breath is foul, but one of the main reasons why bad breath affects healthy people is a buildup of plaque bacteria around the gum line and the back of the tongue, according to research by the American Dental Association. And the most likely cause of bad bacteria stems from poor oral hygiene habits. Food stuck between your teeth, around your gums, and on your tongue can leave a foul smell as it decays.
- Rather than just masking the odor with temporary fixes like gum, mints, and mouthwash, start brushing and flossing daily — and start brushing your tongue.
- Studies show that by simply brushing your tongue, you can reduce bad breath by 70 percent. In fact, using a tongue scraper to remove dead skin cells, bacteria, and tiny particles of food is even better. Scrape until there is no residue left on the scraper.
You can’t escape stinky foods
You’ve brushed and flossed your teeth, but you still can’t get that smell of onions off your breath. That’s because sulfur-containing foods, like garlic and onions enter your bloodstream after digestion and are carried to your lungs, affecting your breath.
- Try a little apple cider vinegar. Some people report that a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, mixed in with a little water — before or after meals — rids their breath of garlic or onion odor.
- Studies also suggest that drinking green tea after a meal is more effective than mouthwash for eliminating bad breath. Green tea, it seems, is comparable to mouthwash when it comes to plaque reduction, as well.
- Chew herb leaves after eating to cleanse the palate, particularly parsley and mint. These herbs are very helpful for garlic or onion breath.
Saliva naturally cleans the mouth by removing particles that cause bad odors. So, if your mouth is dry, either naturally or due to a specific disease like xerostomia (a condition in which the salivary glands don’t make enough saliva), odors develop. Dry mouth naturally occurs while you sleep, leading to “morning breath.” If you sleep with an open mouth, the condition may worsen. Here’s how to combat dry mouth:
- To stimulate your flow of saliva, suck on sugar-free candy or chew sugar-free gum.
- Go easy on the coffee, since caffeine can make your mouth drier.
- Get rid of any mouthwashes that contain alcohol because they can be drying as well.
- Tobacco is notorious for giving you dry mouth. So, if you haven’t yet, stop smoking or chewing tobacco.
- Stay well hydrated by sipping water throughout your day. In addition, keep a little water by your bed at night if you wake up with excessive dry mouth.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air at night.
Intermittent fasting, low-carb diets, and the keto diet can all produce halitosis. This occurs because of the breakdown of fats producing chemicals called ketones, a chemical your liver makes. Ketones have a strong aroma, thus giving you stinky breath.
- Your best course of defense for smelly breath that’s related to dieting is to practice good oral hygiene and increase your water intake — stay well hydrated. Your body flushes ketones from your body through urination.
Your stinky breath may be the result of recent oral surgery such as having a tooth removed, tooth decay, gum disease, or mouth sores.
- A saltwater rinse is a great way to heal infection and reduce dental bacteria. Saltwater rinses temporarily increase the pH balance of your mouth, creating an alkaline environment whereby bacteria struggle to survive, according to Eric Shapira, D.D.S., for Men’s Health. Bacteria generally prefer an acidic environment. Therefore, rinsing with salt water is often a solution and can make it difficult for bacteria to breed.
You could be someone who worries about your breath even though you have little to no odor. On the other hand, you could have stinky breath and not even know it. It’s difficult to judge the smell of your own breath. So, ask a friend or family member to confirm whether or not your breath is smelly. Remember, bad breath odors may vary, depending on the underlying cause.
First and foremost, review your oral hygiene habits. Brush your tongue and teeth after eating. Use dental floss daily and stay hydrated. If your bad breath persists, something more is likely going on, so be sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist.