How to Deal with Bad Breath

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Bad breath has popularly been portrayed as one of the most common dampeners in a budding relationship. But even if you are not concerned about your love life or social popularity, consider the fact that persistent dragon breath could indicate underlying health problems. So if you suffer from bad breath and have been erratic in your approach, here are a few tips on dealing with the problem and getting done with it.

Spot the problem

Halitosis or as bad breath is known in medical circles is hard to spot because humans have a way of getting used to their own smell, including oral ones. So in order to realize that there is a problem you need to be alert to certain signs like people constantly backing away from you, turning their head when you talk or being offered gum or mints at odd times. Even cupping your hand in front of your mouth and breathing in may not give you the right picture since all you do is smell your hand. A more reliable tip is to lick the back of your hands and let it evaporate. If you are plagued with bad breath, you might be able to smell the sulfur compounds. Also, look at your tongue in good light. While pink and rosy-looking tongue would probably indicate clean breath, if your tongue appears coated white or yellow, you need to take action and fast.

Drink up

Bad breath can occur when the bacteria on your tongue break down the proteins in mucus and food—especially sugar and dairy products—which can cause the bacteria to release sulfur compounds. So one of the easiest ways to clean your breath is to drink a lot of water because a dry mouth creates an anaerobic condition for compounds to rise and spread on the tongue’s surface.  Drinking water on the other hand makes you produce more saliva, which in turn neutralizes bad breath. However ensure that you reach for a bottle of plain water rather than sugary flavored versions which may exacerbate the problem. This is also a reason why you should opt for an Earl Grey teabag rather than the cup of Java – since coffee has a more dehydrating effect as compared to tea, it may make the problem worse. Better still, stick to green tea. A 2007 study1 at the University of British Columbia found that the polyphenols in green tea temporarily decrease sulfur compounds in the mouth. However avoid adding sugar or milk to your cuppa as it will increase the bacteria you’re trying to reduce. Studies also show that green tea may help prevent gum disease, too.

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Maintain oral hygiene

There is no substitute for this one when it comes to dealing with bad breath. Regular brushing and flossing will not only help you keep your pearlies shining but remove any bits of food stuck between your teeth or gums which may cause bad breath. Ideally you should brush after every meal but even if you cannot follow that, at least ensure that after brushing you use a tongue scraper. This will clean away the crevices of any debris and leave your breath smelling fresh. Finally swirl the insides with the recommended amount of mouthwash. According to the American Dental Association, some mouthwashes do more than leave breath smelling minty; they contain antiseptic agents, such as cetylpyridinium chloride, to reduce plaque and prevent gingivitis, which can also cause bad breath.

Keep in mind though that most toothpastes contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, which dries out the mouth. Likewise, stay away from old-fashioned mouthwash that contains alcohol since alcohol dries your mouth and could worsen the problem of bad breath. Instead you can switch to an alcohol-free version or dilute it with a little water.

Fiber to the rescue

Fruits and vegetables rich in fiber work in several ways to fight bad breath. Some vegetables like, such as celery and cucumbers, need a greater effort in chewing and thus increase the production of saliva in the mouth. This in turn washes away odor-causing bacteria, leaving your breath refreshed. Also crunchy fruits like apples help remove plaque on teeth and gums, which bacteria can feed on and cause dragon breath. In fact some herbs like parsley have odor-neutralizing effect  while those like mint are sweet smelling which is perhaps they have been traditionally used to freshen the breath.

Add a drop of tea-tree oil

Some herbologists believe that the oil derived from tea tree has antibacterial properties. Thus in order to combat bad breath Put a few drops directly on your toothbrush and brush the back of your tongue and along your gumline, then spit out any excess. The oil will kill some of the odor-generating bacteria that can lurk in those parts. However since all the effects of such essential oils are yet to be documented, experts warn pregnant and breast-feeding women to avoid using them.

Pop a gum

Just like munching on fibrous veggies and fruits, chewing gum increases the production of saliva  which in turn helps to wash away the sulfurous compounds in the mouth responsible for dragon breath. However be careful to opt for sugar-free gums only since t contains sugar actually feeds the bacteria that generate sulfur compounds. If you cannot bear the taste of sugar-free gums, look for those that contain natural sweeteners called sugar alcohols, such as xylitol and sorbitol. Sugar-free mints also stimulate saliva production and temporarily mask odor.

Throw away the cancer stick

One of the most common causes of bad breath or occasional halitosis is smoking cigarettes or cigar. The tar and nicotine from cigarettes are deposited in your mouth. Such foul-smelling chemicals tend stick to places like the teeth, gums, tongue and side of the cheeks and are responsible for bad breath. Another important way that smoking leads to halitosis is by drying out the mouth.  Apart from this, the effect of nicotine leads to teeth discoloration as well as increased build up of plaque and tartar on teeth, all of which are sure to worsen your oral health and appearance.

Check your medicine cabinet

Examine the medications you’re taking. Some medications, including anti-depressants, blood-pressure drugs, and antihistamines  have dry mouth as a side effect, which is why a lot of older people have bad breath.

Seek professional advice

While short-term bad breath may be caused by consumption of strong-smelling foods like garlic and onions or lack of oral hygiene, if the problem persists for long and does not appear to be solved by occasional mints or mouth gargle, it could be indicative of underlying dental problems or bad breath could indicate a more serious problem: diabetes, tonsil stones. So if despite your best efforts you cannot seem to get rid of dragon breath, it might be time to make an appointment with your dentist.

Reference:

  1. Fox News - How to treat bad breath