Bad breath, morning breath, breath odor or halitosis are all terms used to describe a noticeably unpleasant odor exhaled on the breath. Halitosis is not a problem by itself, but it can cause concerns in our interpersonal relationships.
We are all familiar with how the consumption of certain foods, such as garlic and onions, can affect our breath. This occurs because these foods are absorbed into our bloodstream, where they are transferred to our lungs and exhaled. Fortunately, bad breath caused by the foods we eat is only temporary.
The truth is, most breath odor comes from food particles trapped in our mouths. When food remains in the mouth, it becomes a breeding ground for the bacteria that can cause bad breath. Other causes can include poor oral health, improper cleaning of dentures, periodontal disease as well as smoking and tobacco products. Bad breath can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition of the stomach, lungs and bloodstream.
Another little known situation that can contribute to halitosis is xerostomia (dry mouth). When our mouth is dry, saliva production decreases, leaving the mouth’s natural ability to clean itself impaired. Saliva is the mouth’s natural mouthwash, which contains properties that reduces bacteria in the mouth. Alcohol consumption, certain medications, breathing through the mouth instead of the nose or a salivary gland disorder can contribute to having a dry mouth.
Recommendations for wellness
- Brush your teeth and rinse your mouth thoroughly after every meal to remove food particle from the mouth.
- When you are brushing your teeth, also brush your tongue. The tongue is coveredwith thousands of tiny hairs that can trap bacteria.
- Have regular check-ups with your dentist to rule out gum disease and to correctany faulty restorations, overhanging fillings or leaking crowns, all of which cantrap food in the mouth.
- Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless lozenges to increase the flow of saliva.
- If your mouth is dry, drink plenty of water. Try swooshing it around in yourmouth for at least 20 seconds to loosen any food particles the bacteria can feedupon.
- Avoid breath mints and mouthwashes that contain alcohol. Instead of helping,they can make things worse. They only temporarily cover the smell and tend to drythe mouth, creating a more favorable environment for bacteria.
- Snacking on vegetables, such as raw celery or carrots, can keep plaque from forming.
- If you are going to an important meeting or on a big date, avoid foods that cancause bad breath, such as onions and garlic.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine consumption, which can dry the mouth.
- Quit smoking. Tar and nicotine can build up on the surface of the teeth, tongueand cheeks. It can also dry the mouth and inhibit saliva flow.
- Chlorophyll is a natural breath freshener and is found in leafy green vegetableslike parsley.
- A few drops of peppermint or tea tree oil can be applied to the tongue or toothbrushto help freshen the breath. In addition to its refreshing nature, their antibacterialproperties will kill the bacteria found in the mouth.
- Baking soda has a long history of being used to maintain good oral health andfor fighting bad breath
- A mixture of 50 percent hydrogen peroxide and 50 percent water can be swooshedaround in the mouth and used as a mouthwash. Hydrogen peroxide can kill many of thebacteria that can cause bad breath.