Every once in a while, you may experience a bout of bad breath to the displeasure of anyone nearby. Occasional bad breath is a fairly common occurrence, and even has a technical name: halitosis. Halitosis is a condition that anthropologists believe served the useful evolutionary purpose of either attracting or repelling mates based on the healthfulness of their mouth. Today we still know you won’t necessarily want to kiss someone who has bad breath! However, about a quarter of the population is estimated to suffer from chronic bad breath, either due to lifestyle choices, poor hygiene or other medical conditions. Halitosis is usually caused by a high amount of sulfur-producing bacteria that live and breed in the mouth, but luckily there are ways to wash them out. For the average person, bad breath is something easily preventable – and totally worth preventing. Let’s start with the easiest ways to knock out bad breath first.
Brush at least twice a day
Ever since we were kids, our parents have probably been hounding us to learn good brushing habits –and hopefully we did! Just remember, brushing is the first and foremost method of removing bacteria and preventing the build up of plaque, and if you are especially concerned about bad breath, brushing after meals is another extra defense against bacterial invaders.
If possible, every day, but at least 3-4 times per week. Flossing is a simple way to remove food and bacteria from the crevices between the teeth that brushing just can’t reach. Failing to floss on a regular basis can also be a recipe for degrading teeth, requiring you to wear dental implants in the long run. And I’m sure you wouldn’t want that, would you.
Clean the tongue twice a day
The bacteria that causes bad breath often builds up on the surface of the tongue, and the good news is that with regular maintenance, these odor-causing invaders can be easily scraped away. Use a toothbrush or specialized tongue scraper to gently scrape that top layer of bacterial biofilm off the tongue whenever you brush your teeth, or more often if you are prone to halitosis.
Gargle with mouthwash
Some specialized mouthwashes are marketed specifically as anti-bacterial cleansers, though it’s not certain whether these have a dramatic effect on chronic halitosis. Also, avoid mouthwashes with alcohol because those will just dry out the mouth and prevent saliva from forming (saliva naturally clears away bacteria). Still, rinsing and gargling with anti-bacterial mouthwash may be a good extra step, and it will leave you feeling minty clean! Plus, gargling at night can help lessen bad morning breath.
Drink a lot of water
Since saliva is a natural cleanser in the mouth, dehydration can often cause bad breath. Not drinking enough water may slow saliva production and allow sulfur-producing bacteria to breed more heavily without being swept away. Drinking about eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is a good goal for both overall health and happy breath.
Chew sugar free gum
Chewing gum may only mask bad breath for a few minutes, but chewing sugar free gum actually increases saliva production, aiding in the natural cleansing of odor-causing bacteria. Kill two birds with one piece of gum!
Stay away from certain foods
Of course chomping down cloves of garlic, onions or Chee-tos may cause people to temporarily avoid any whiff you make toward them. If you’re prone to bad breath, you may want to avoid extremely pungent foods, but for most people, the odor from strong foods will subside with proper oral hygiene.
Eat a healthy breakfast every day
Starting off the morning with a healthy breakfast and consuming mostly wholesome meals aids in keeping good bacteria present and keeping bad bacteria away. Also, obesity is thought to be a factor in chronic halitosis, so maintaining a healthy weight is very important, not just for combating bad breath but also for overall health.
Don’t smoke or drink alcohol excessively
Two of the worst things you can do to your body and your mouth is smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol in excess. Chemicals in cigarettes and alcohol are very strong and potent, and over time they stick to the gums, cheeks, teeth and tongue. These regular and fairly permanent deposits of bacteria can cause a particularly nasty form of halitosis.
Schedule regular dental visits
If you feel you’ve done all you can on your own to combat bad breath and it still doesn’t go away, schedule with an appointment with a dentist. Make sure the dentist has a dental assisting certificate. Your dentist may be able to prescribe medications, or probiotic treatments, to attack persistent bacteria. Either way, getting a professional teeth cleaning every six months is essential for overall dental health, including the removal of deep-set bacteria that causes bad breath. Don’t neglect your dental health!