CONDITIONS A-Z

20 Natural Cures to Beat Bad Breath

By: Dr Kristie McNealy - FamilyHealthGuide - Senior Editor

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Bad breath doesn't only happen after eating garlic, in fact it is estimated that 50% of us will be affected at some point in our lives.

Bad_BreathChronic bad breath is a condition called halitosis and for some it can be recurring problem. Managing halitosis successfully requires more than simply gargling mouthwash every now and then.

What Causes Bad Breath?

The most common cause of bad breath is the breakdown of proteins by bacteria in the mouth. This can be exacerbated by poor oral hygiene.

  • Plaque - Plaque is a thin, sticky, invisible film that builds up on the surface of your teeth. Under the microscope it is a mesh of food debris, dead cellsand thousands of bacteria. Bacteria break down food particles and acids are produced that dissolve the protective enamel of your teeth causing decay. Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth can be warning sign of gum disease or tooth decay.

  • Certain foods – Everyone is familiar with the feeling of eating a strong-flavoured food and having to deal with the lingering after-taste. Onions, garlic, caffeine, alcohol and other spices can cause problems. Fortunately this type of bad breath is only temporary and can be easily avoided by not eating these foods

  • Dry mouth (xerostomia) – Saliva helps wash food particles from the mouth, dilutes the acid that causes tooth decay, helps break down any remaining food particles and contains antibodies that help fight decay. Dry mouth may be caused by some medicines, salivary gland problems or by continually breathing through the mouth. Diabetes, smoking, alcohol consumption and certain medications can also contribute to a dry mouth.

  • Medical conditions about 10% of cases of bad breath are due to medical conditions like diabetes, sinusitis or tonsillitis, bronchitis, liver or kidney problems

  • Medicines - A number of medications can cause bad breath. These include nitrates, some chemotherapy drugs and certain tranquilisers.

  • Smoking - As well as making your breath smell of stale smoke, smoking can increase your risk of gingivitis (gum disease) which also leads to bad breath.

The Bad Breath Test

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20 Natural Remedies and Cures for Bad Breath

Suppose you conduct a 'breath test' as you make your way to an important meeting, and you fail. Don't worry – the following quick fixes can help to minimize halitosis. If your gums, tongue and teeth are harbouring odour-causing bacteria, you'll want to adopt some rigorous daily hygiene habits to inhibit them. That's when special rinses, attention to toothpaste and regular brushing and flossing can begin making bad breath good.

Take emergency measures

  • A dry mouth is a haven for the bacteria that cause bad breath. So find a tap and swish the water around in your mouth. Water will temporarily dislodge bacteria and make your breath a little more acceptable.

  • At the end of your business lunch or romantic dinner, eat the sprig of parsley that's left on your plate. Parsley is rich in chlorophyll, a well known breath deodorizer with germ-fighting properties.

  • If you can get hold of an orange, peel and eat it. The citric acid it contains will stimulate your salivary glands and encourage the flow of breath-freshening saliva.

  • If there are no oranges in sight, eat whatever is available, except known breath-pollutants such as garlic, onions or a strong cheese. Eating encourages the flow of saliva, which helps to remove the unpleasant, odour-causing material on the surface of your tongue.

  • If you have a metal or plastic spoon to hand, you can use it as an effective tongue scraper. To scrape safely, place the spoon on the back of your tongue and drag it forwards. Repeat four or five times. Scrape the sides of the tongue as well, with the same back-to-front motion. Rinse your mouth water and spit out. Remember not to push the spoon too far back in your mouth as you may activate your gag reflex.

Raid the Spice Rack

  • Cloves are rich in eugenol, a potent antibacterial. Simply pop one into your mouth and dent it with your teeth. The pungent aromatic oil may burn slightly, so keep the spicy clove moving. Continue to bite until the essence permeates your mouth, then spit it out. Don't use clove oil or powdered cloves; they are too strong and can cause burns. Fresh cloves steeped in warm, purified water make a very good natural anti-bacterial mouthwash.

  • Chew on fennel, dill, cardamom or anise seeds. Anise, which tastes like liquorice, can kill the bacteria that grow on the tongue. The others will help to mask the odour of halitosis. Fennel seeds immediately alkalize the saliva which naturally prevents the overgrowth of bad bacteria. Additionally, these small, dry seeds are very easy to carry with you while travelling.

  • Suck on a stick of cinnamon. Like cloves, cinnamon is effective as a mouth antiseptic.

Choose your fresheners

  • Most popular branded products advertised as breath-fresheners are rarely, if ever, effective in the long term. But it appears that a chlorine dioxide rinse, such as Eliminator Mouthwash can combat the sulphur compounds responsible for bad breath.

  • Use a toothpaste that contains tea tree oil, a natural disinfectant. If you can't find it in the pharmacy, look for it in health-food shops (Holland & Barrett have their own brand).

The Power of Prevention

  • Use an oral irrigator which is a hand held gadget that rapidly pulses a small jet of water into your mouth to flush out the bad bacteria. It can go deeper than a brush or floss can reach.

  • Carry a toothbrush with you and brush after every meal. Brushing thwarts the development of plaque, the soft sticky film that coats the teeth and gums.It is not necessarily good advice to brush immediately after a meal: if you have consumed anything potentially erosive, like cola or citrus fruit, this can cause added damage to dental enamel. In this instance, brushing an hour after a meal is better.

  • Keep chewing gum in your pocket or bag. Chewing a stick of gum, especially after meals, will stimulate saliva flow and clear away food debris.

  • To keep your toothbrush free of bacteria, store it, head down, in a lidded plastic tumbler of hydrogen peroxide. Rinse the brush well before you use it.

  • If you wear dentures, it's possible that they are absorbing the bad odours in your mouth. Always soak them overnight in an antiseptic solution, unless your dentist has advised you otherwise.

  • Don't skip meals. When you don't eat for a long period of time, your mouth can get very dry. It becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

    Some things can sour your breath even when there are no bad bacteria. These include cigarettes, alcohol, onions, garlic and especially strong cheeses such as Camembert, Roquefort and other blue cheeses. In situations where sweet breath is a must, use the commonsense approach – just say no.

  • Ask your doctor if a medication could be causing your bad breath. Any drug that dries out your mouth, thereby depriving it of saliva, is suspect. These include over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, diet pills and also prescription medications for depression, rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure.

Should I call the doctor?

While all of us have bad breath from time to time, good oral hygiene should keep it to a minimum. But bad breath that lingers for more than 24 hours can also be a sign of gum disease, intestinal problems or a more serious condition. If you brush and floss diligently, but can't banish bad breath on your own, see your doctor or dentist. You should also see a doctor if your breath smells sweet or fruity, as this could be a sign of diabetes.

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