The problem of bad breath, also known as halitosis, is quite a sensitive issue of personal health and wellness.
After tooth decay and gum problems, bad breath is the third most common dental problem in the world. As per Wikipedia, around 20% of the general worldwide population is suffering from bad breath. It is quite a big number..isn’t it? If it is not enough then the American Dental Association has something more scary to share. According to the statistics published in the Journal of The American Dental Association, 2003- around 50% of the adult population of America is dealing with bad breath up to some degree and half of them (around 25% of the whole adult population) is suffering from chronic bad breath.
What causes Bad Breath
- Poor oral hygiene– If you don’t brush your teeth and floss them regularly, the food particles remain in the mouth and collects bacteria. These bacteria produce gaseous compounds which results in bad breath. Also, the food accumulated between the teeth, around the gums and on the tongue can decompose to give an unpleasant smell.
- Oral problems– Dental cavities and gum diseases can develop the perfect environment for bad bacteria to grow and develop to cause bad breath.
- Dry mouth– The problem of dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can cause and worsen bad breath. The saliva produced by the salivary glands not only moisten the mouth, but at the same time, it cleanses your mouth by removing the odor causing particles. The most prominent reasons for dry mouth are- certain medications (diuretics, aspirin, antidepressants), problems in the salivary glands and breathing through the mouth.
Snoring can cause dry mouth to make your morning breath unpleasant.
- Smoking (tobacco consumption) – Regular smoking and chewing tobacco products can cause bad breath along with teeth staining.
- Strong smelling drinks– Alcohol and coffee can cause temporary bad breath. Being diuretic in nature, these drinks promote fluid loss and at the same time, makes your mouth dry.
- Strong odorous foods like garlic and onions– Garlic and onions have many health benefits mainly because of their sulfur compounds. Ironically, these sulfur compounds can cause temporary bad breath as well. Once these sulfur compounds gets metabolized and enter your bloodstream, they are transferred to the lungs and excreted out from your body by breathing out producing an unpleasant smell.
- Due to certain medical conditions– Bad breath doesn’t necessarily means poor oral health. Sometimes, problems related to the respiratory system (chronic sinus, bronchitis, throat infection), liver or kidney can also develop bad breath. If the dentist finds everything fine with your oral health, you need to dig in and see a physician to determine the root cause of bad breath.
- Poor gut health– It is evident that a healthy digestive system is vital for an overall healthy body. Now, it plays a crucial role in reducing bad breath as well. Our gut contains trillions of bacteria- good and bad both. When the balance among them gets disturbed, the bad bacteria quickly overpower the good one and result in poor digestion, nutritional deficiency, accumulation of body toxins, faulty immune system, allergies and eventually degradation of body.
- Highly acidic oral environment– Bacteria enjoys acidic environment. Too much acidic pH in the mouth can accelerate the bacteria growth to worsen bad breath. Also, hyperacidity causes calcium loss from the teeth to yield tooth decay. The main reasons for acidic mouth are- consuming highly acidic foods and chronic stress. Highly acidic foods and drinks include – canned drinks, carbonated sugary drinks, alcoholic beverages, vinegar, sauce, syrup, processed foods with refined white flour and sugar, packaged meat.
- Dieting– During a weight loss program, the body metabolism would be breaking down the accumulated fats to give a fruity unpleasant odor.
- Pregnancy– Pregnancy itself doesn’t cause bad breath. But, the related issues such as- hormonal changes, dehydration, morning sickness, nausea, changed food habits- can develop temporary bad breath during pregnancy.
How to check if you have bad breath
Bad breath is quite a sensitive issue, yet, sometimes, the person remains completely unaware of it until someone else reveals.
Hence, if you are in doubt about your breath, then do this little self check. Although, it is not a scientific method, still it helps:
Lick the inside of your wrist with tongue (both sides of the tongue), then let the saliva dry for a few seconds. If the licked portion smells bad, it implies that you have bad breath.
How to reduce bad breath
Bad breath if left untreated, can result in tooth decay and gum problems. The reverse is also true!
- Optimum oral hygiene
Maintain a good oral hygiene. Brush twice a day with a good toothpaste- in the morning before the breakfast and at night before going to bed.
The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day (2 minutes each) for better oral health and hygiene.
Floss at least once a day, preferably at night to clean the areas between the teeth where toothbrush can’t reach.
Tongue cleaning is also crucial. The tongue accounts for almost one third of our mouths surface area. Hence, it is very important to keep it clean, but, unfortunately most of the people ignore it.
Dead cells and bacteria accumulated on the tongue (in the form of coating) accounts for 80 to 90% of all the cases of bad breath- The American Association of Dental Research.
Use a tongue scraper to rub off the accumulate toxins (dead cells and bacteria) from the tongue. These days, there are toothbrushes available which have tongue cleaner on the back side of toothbrush head. Hence, no need of additional tongue scraper.
- Increase the fluid intake
Drink more water to maintain proper saliva production and avoid dry mouth. Upon waking up in the morning, always rinse a few times with water to wash off the microbes from the mouth. Then drink a few cups of water to hydrate your mouth.
After the meals, suck on sugarless candies to increase saliva production and prevent dry mouth.
- Improve your gut health
As discussed earlier, a poor gut health can contribute towards bad breath. Hence, improve your gut health to ensure long term relief from bad breath. Follow below steps to improve the gut functioning:
>Regular meal timings. Neither overeat nor skip meals.
>Avoid unhealthy foods- highly processed foods rich in salt, sugar, refined white flour and saturated fats.
>Eat more of unprocessed whole fibrous foods such as brown rice, whole grains.
>Eat more of raw green vegetables and fruits. Avoid canned/ packaged fruit juices and carbonated drinks
>Eat fermented foods to include healthy bacteria such as yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut.
>Include probiotic supplements to improve gut flora.
>Avoid the use of antibiotics as much as possible. Antibiotics eliminate good bacteria from your gut.
>Avoid chlorinated drinking water. Use a water filter to avoid harmful chemicals.
>Regular physical workout- jogging, brisk walking, gym workout, cycling, dancing, swimming- helps improve the body metabolism and digestion.
- Increase the oral pH
Limit the consumption of highly acidic foods to avoid highly acidic oral pH. Also, rinsing your mouth with lemon water (lemon juice in water) or baking soda solution can quickly shift the oral pH towards alkaline zone.
- Limit the intake of strong odor foods (garlic, onions, spices) and drinks (alcohol, coffee)
- Try to quit smoking and chewing tobacco
- If bad breath persists even with all the above remedies, talk to your physician so that any underlying problem can be identified and diagnosed.
Additional Useful Tips
- After every meal, don’t forget to rinse your mouth well with water to get rid of any loose food particles stuck between tooth or around the gums.
- Slowly chew a teaspoon of fennel seeds (or a piece of clove) after every meal to freshen the breath.
- If you wear dentures, make sure to clean them every day to get rid of bacteria buildup.
- Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months.
- Visit the dentist every 6 months for dental cleaning and check up.
- All sugary food and drinks should be consumed in limited quantity.
Lemon for bad breath
Lemon is a citrus fruit- rich in vitamin C, alkaline minerals and flavonoids (plant pigments). These flavonoids have potent antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. Vitamin C is an important nutrient for healthy teeth and gums.
How lemon juice can reduce bad breath?
- Lemon juice neutralizes the excessive acidic pH– When the lemon juice enters your body, it readily ionizes to provide a strong alkaline effect on the inner body metabolism. Hence, it can eliminate the acidic residues from your mouth to check the bacteria growth.
- Improves gut health– When you drink warm lemon water in the morning, it kick start your body metabolism. It stimulates the flow of digestive juices to improve digestion and boost up the body metabolism. Also, it provides pectin (a type of soluble fiber) to relieve constipation. It is an ideal natural drink to maintain bacteria balance in your gut because it doesn’t allow bad bacteria to build up.
- Freshen your breath– Lemon, being a citrus fruit, provides a strong refreshing citrus flavor to your breath.
How to use lemon for bad breath
- Drink the lemon water
Squeeze a full size lemon in 2 cups (16 ounces) of water. Your lemon water is ready. Keep it in the fridge. Drink this lemon water before the meals- lunch and dinner- to promote digestion and boost the body metabolism.
Also, gargle with this lemon water after the meals to wash off the remaining food particles and to maintain the oral alkaline pH.
- Sucking the Lemon juice candies
Sometimes, the dentist suggests to suck on sugarless candies to overcome dry mouth as sucking on candies stimulate saliva production and clean up the remaining food particles. For that, lemon juice candies can be a very good option.
Add one part of squeezed lemon juice and four parts of water in each compartment of the ice cube tray. You may add a pinch of cinnamon powder in each compartment to improve the taste and enhance the benefits. Just put the tray in the freezer and your lemon juice candies are ready. Just suck on one candy whenever you want. People generally prefer to suck candies after the meals. Adjust the sourness of candies with more or less lemon juice as per taste.
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