Bad breath is a major turn-off for anyone. But what if brushing doesn’t help?
What’s the biggest turn-off on a first date? According to a 2010 survey, bad breath. Nearly 90 percent of respondents said that bad breath—or halitosis, as it’s termed medically—will kill your chances on a date more than yellow teeth, baldness, or even acne.
It’s not only singles that have to deal with the fallout of bad breath, however. Another survey conducted this year (2012) reported that nearly half of women participants would end a relationship with someone after consistent bad breath, while over half said they lost interest in someone they were attracted to due to bad breath.
A third survey conducted by Wakefield Research found that bad breath isn’t only bad for your relationships—it’s also bad for your self-esteem. A total of 71 percent of respondents said halitosis kills confidence.
For many people, however, regular brushing isn’t enough to combat bad breath all day. What causes it anyway, and what can you do to be sure you’re fresh for every kiss?
What Causes Bad Breath?
Though there are some simple causes of bad breath—such as neglecting to brush well or floss every day—other causes are not so simple.
- Bacteria: This is the most common cause. Whenever you eat, the food mixes with the bacteria already in your mouth. As food particles break down, odor develops.
- Certain foods: We all know that garlic can cause bad breath, and we know that brushing doesn’t usually fix it long-term. That’s because as garlic and other foods are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, they are eventually carried to the lungs, where they can contribute to bad breath as you exhale. These foods contain sulfur compounds that naturally create odors. Other foods that like to linger include onions, certain spices, acidic foods (they contribute to an acidic environment in the mouth, which can encourage bad breath), foods that get stuck in the mouth (like meat and popcorn), fish, dairy products, and sugary foods.
- Dental problems: Poor dental hygiene, gum disease, and a lack of proper care for the gums and teeth can all contribute to bad breath. Neglect allows bacteria to buildup in the mouth, forming plaque that can cause tooth decay and bad breath.
- Dry mouth: Saliva is our natural defense against bacteria and bad breath, so if you have dry mouth, your less likely to have a clean mouth.
- Disease: Some illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and kidney failure can cause bad breath because of the chemicals they produce in the body. Chronic reflux is also associated with bad breath.
- Medications: Some medications, like those used to treat high blood pressure or urinary problems, can produce bad breath by encouraging dry mouth. Other medications may release chemicals that can be carried out in your breath.
- Sinus infections: The nasal passages can also contribute to bad breath, particularly if they are infected. Nasal discharge drips from the sinuses into the back of the throat, causing mouth odor. Other upper respiratory infections can also lead to halitosis, as can the common cold.
- Tobacco products: Smoking dries the mouth and contributes to odor, and also increases the risk for gum disease.
- Stress: It affects the digestive system, the effects of which can show up on your breath.
What You Can Do About It
With so many potential causes of bad breath, how are you to stay on top of it?
Of course, fresh breath starts with good dental hygiene, which means brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day, plus getting regular dental cleanings. Many people forget to brush their tongues, but as bacteria can settle there too, it’s a good idea to use a tongue scraper when brushing.
In addition to regular care, here are some other tips for keeping your mouth fresh:
- Drink lots of water. It keeps your mouth moist, which stimulates saliva production, helping to wash away food particles and bacteria.
- Try oil pulling. You simply swish with a spoonful of sesame or sunflower oil for 15-20 minutes to reduce bacteria and improve the health of gums.
- Rinse often. Sometimes it’s a good idea to brush after a meal, but other times it’s not. If you eat or drink acidic items, for example, like citrus fruits or coffee, brushing right after when your enamel is weakened by the acid can do more harm than good. Wait for an hour to brush. In the meantime, you can rinse with simple saltwater to get most of the bacteria out.
- Get good nutrition. A deficiency in certain nutrients can lead to a buildup of mucus or toxins that can lead to bad breath. When you have your blood tested, make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B, C, and zinc.
- Try enzymes. Many times it’s not the mouth but the digestive system that is causing bad breath. Your system may be lacking in the enzymes needed for proper digestion, especially if you’re over 40. Take 2-4 tablets of digestive enzymes with each meal to see if it helps.
- How about probiotics? Another helper for the digestive system, probiotics resupply your gut with healthy bacteria. It may improve your digestion, which, in turn, will tame bad breath.
- Go for a detox. Again, this is related to the digestive system. If your intestines are full of toxins and your liver and kidneys are overwhelmed, you may be producing chemicals in your breath. Try a detox to see if that helps.
- Alfalfa tablets. They may help eliminate bad breath. The chlorophyll inside cleanses the bloodstream and colon, where bad breath often starts. Try 6 tablets daily or 1 tbsp liquid in juice or water three times daily.
- Up for a lemon? If you can stand it, suck on a lemon wedge with salt after eating garlic or onions to get rid of the odor.
- Mix in some cloves with your tea. According to a report published in the Journal of Biological Active Products from Nature, mixing a minimum of 60 to 120 microliters of clove oil into a liter of solution resulted in the destruction of a bacterial colony. Besides, clove oil has been used for centuries in oral care. For tea, mix 3 whole or ¼ teaspoon ground cloves in two cups of hot water and steep for 20 minutes.
- Chew natural mint gum. Gum that has real spearmint or peppermint oil in it will help eliminate the bacteria that cause bad breath while stimulating the production of saliva.
- Try chewing on herbal leaves. You can also chew on leaves of mint, parsley, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, fennel, or wintergreen to mask bad breath odors.
- Hazelnuts: They’re reputed to absorb bad breath. Try some after a meal.
- Suck on some cinnamon. Sucking on cinnamon bark during the day can keep your breath fresh, as cinnamon has antibacterial properties along with its pleasant scent.
- Snack on an apple. The natural components in apples help clean teeth. Snack on a few slices after a meal.
Do you have other natural solutions for bad breath? Please share them!
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Dr. Harold Katz, “Survey: bad breath is biggest turn-off on a first date,” Therabreath.com, December 6, 2010, http://www.therabreath.com/articles/blog/oral-care-tips-and-advice/survey-bad-breath-is-biggest-turn-off-on-a-first-date-2211.asp.
“Survey: Bad breath a turnoff,” UPI.com, March 31, 2012, http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2012/03/31/Survey-Bad-breath-a-turnoff/UPI-77991333173846/.
Dr. Harold Katz, “What do cloves do for bad breath?” Therabreath.com, April 8, 2011, http://www.therabreath.com/articles/news/the-science-of-bad-breath/what-do-cloves-do-for-bad-breath-3590.asp.