Nobody wants bad breath, but the sheer volume of food and drink travelling through our mouths daily means that a quarter of us suffer from bad breath. Nailing your oral hygiene is essential, because bad oral hygiene allows bacteria to build up and produce unpleasant smelling gasses. But there are plenty of other avoidable causes and simple solutions – read on for guaranteed fresh breath confidence.
Perfect your dental routine
The leading cause of bad breath is bacteria on (and between) teeth, tongue and gums, so sort that out first. Brush your teeth and gums last thing at night and first thing in the morning for two full minutes (all Oral-B electric toothbrushes have timers so you don’t have to worry about clocking this yourself). And always use a fluoride toothpaste for best results.
Brushing alone only cleans up to about 60 percent of the surface of your teeth though, so floss between your teeth or use interdental brushes daily to make sure you remove any food that could get stuck and cause problems. Then finish off with a rinse: recent research proved that mouthwash helps to reduce levels of bacteria and chemicals that cause a nasty whiff. Mouth rinses kill bacteria thanks to antibacterial agents like chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium. A tongue scraper is a smart idea as well, because another common reason for bad breath is a ‘nasal drip’, which coats the back of your tongue with bacteria – tongue scrapers remove these nasties.
Have a garlic chaser!
We all know that garlic can cause nasty breath, but we also know it tastes delicious! Rather than opting for bland Bolognaise, munch an apple or some lettuce immediately after eating. A US study that gave people garlic cloves to chew for 25 seconds, then gave them an apple, lettuce or mint leaves immediately after, found that raw apple and raw lettuce decreased the concentration of the chemicals responsible for garlic breath by 50 percent. Apparently, these foods beat garlic breath in two ways; first, enzymes help to destroy the odors, then phenolic compounds destroy the chemicals that create the bad breath. No need to skip a goodnight kiss after an Italian dinner date, then – just order a side salad!
Avoid dry mouth
Saliva is a natural antiseptic that breaks down food particles and stops bacteria growing in the mouth – making dehydration another major bad breath culprit. To produce enough saliva, you need to stay hydrated through the day, so sip water and herbal teas and avoid alcohol. Another dry mouth cause is breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. It’s also worth knowing that certain medicines can limit how much saliva you produce, such as nitrates used to treat angina and some tranquillizers.
You can also try chewing sugar-free gum to help keep your mouth from getting dry. A US study found that chewing a sugar-free cinnamon flavored gum for 20 minutes reduced bad breath-causing bacteria in the mouth thanks to natural antibacterial agents. Finally, another way to build up saliva naturally is to chomp on water-rich crudités like carrot or celery sticks – they can help scrape out plaque build-up and boost saliva production.
Have a healthy lifestyle
One of the causes of bad breath is smoking, which also stains teeth, irritates gums and causes loss of taste, so kicking the habit is important. Drinking too much alcohol can worsen stale breath, too. Researchers from Tel Aviv University found that being too heavy also causes problems; the more overweight you are, the more likely your breath is to smell unpleasant. They aren’t certain as to why, but the connection could be due to eating a diet that promotes dry mouth (lots of salty food, say). But while being overweight is bad, trying to slim down by crash dieting, fasting or eating a restrictive low-carbohydrate diet is no good either. Extreme diets cause your body to break down fat, which produces chemicals called ketones that can be smelled on your breath. The key is to stay at a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet.
Treat your gut to yogurt!
Bad breath can be linked to how healthy your gut is, because an imbalance between good and bad bacteria can cause an unpleasant smell. A Japanese study found that eating traditional yogurt – a food that contains probiotics – reduced the harmful bacteria that cause bad breath. Levels of these unpleasant volatile sulfide compounds decreased after six weeks in 80 percent of the volunteers who ate yogurt. They had healthier mouths and significantly lower levels of plaque, too. Impressive!