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Halitosis. Bad breath. Oral malodor. It’s called a million different things but the point is your breath stinks.
And it’s super frustrating.
Not only is it an irritating smell, but it rips at your confidence too. Thirty seven percent of people say that bad breath is a major factor in how they evaluate someone during a first impression. The question is, what can you do about it? How exactly does one get rid of bad breath? Well, we’ve got all the answers. First, let’s take a look at why bad breath happens in the first place. Then we’ll move on to how you can fix it.
Causes of Bad Breath
If it’s any comfort, bad breath is probably more common than you think. According to a swiss study, only 17% of the subjects had never dealt with bad breath or halitosis at any point. Furthermore, about 45% of the population will experience symptoms of bad breath at some point during their day – that’s around 80 million americans. So, it’s a pretty common problem, but what exactly causes it? Below we’ve got a list of the most common causes of bad breath.
Poor Dental Hygiene
We’ll start out with an obvious one: poor dental hygiene. It makes sense. If you don’t take care of your mouth, it’ll start to smell. Why is this exactly? There are plenty of specific reasons, but the high level cause is the bacteria in your mouth. Sure, you’ll have temporary bouts of bad breath that have ulterior causes, but generally if you have poor dental hygiene your halitosis issues will likely come from the bacteria.
Bacteria in your mouth will feed on the sugars and starches that are part of the food you eat. As a result of this feasting, they’ll excrete an acidic bile. Along with damaging your oral tissue and wearing away your enamel, this bile smells pretty bad too.
Furthermore, one of the more prevalent but unknown causes is bacteria that sit on the back of your tongue. These germs are often embedded in a layer of this mucus that standard brushing and rinsing has a hard time removing. These bacteria in particular will excrete volatile sulfur compounds that smell pretty awful.
This is another obvious one but it’s another major cause and is worth mentioning. There are tons of foods and drinks that cause bad breath. Below is a list of the major offenders:
- Energy Drinks
- Citric fruits and drinks
- Dairy products
Some of these are pretty obvious. Garlic smells pretty pungent at times so it makes sense that it’ll affect how your breath smells. Others, not so much. Keep in mind that the environment in your mouth is constantly changing because of a variety of factors.
Bacteria, pH levels, saliva products and more make your oral health very much a moving target. Products like soda and energy drinks don’t necessarily smell bad themselves but can significantly alter the pH levels in your mouth. This can cause tooth decay along with reduce saliva production, both of which will contribute to bad breath.
Poor Fitting Implants
Any poor fitting implants (such as braces/orthodontics, crowns, dentures, etc.) can be a major contributor to halitosis. The idea here is similar to poor dental hygiene: bacteria. A poor fitting implant means that there are gaps and spaces at various points in your mouth. These gaps are dark, damp and perfect for bacterial growth. Before you know it, you’ve got a minor bacterial infection.
Along with contributing to bad breath that we discussed earlier, poor fitting implants can lead to a significant increase in tooth decay and substantially impact your gum health. This is a pretty severe issue and should be fixed as soon as it’s identified.
Saliva is crucial for a variety of oral health concerns, bad breath included. Unfortunately there are a lot of things that can reduce saliva production. Below are the worst offenders:
- Nerve damage
- Alcohol based products (including mouthwash)
- Tobacco products
- Sinus blockage
- Various illnesses
The more saliva your mouth is producing, the better it washes away bacteria, food and drink. The less bacteria and broken down food in your mouth, the fewer odorous smells will arise.
This one is pretty obvious too, but it can single handedly ruin your breath. That being said, it’s still possible to consume tobacco products along with having a relatively pleasant smelling mouth. Products such as oral rinses, gums and toothpastes can help reduce bad breath from smoking or chewing tobacco.
What we’ve listed above covers the vast majority of likely causes for bad breath, but there are plenty of specific issues that can result in bad breath. Below are other potential but more specific contributors to halitosis:
- Kidney/liver failure
- Sinus infections
- Upper respiratory infections
- Stomach disorders (including acid reflux)
- Various medication
If you’re confident none of the issues outline above or earlier in this article are the reason for your halitosis, have a conversation with your doctor or dentist about other potential causes.
How to Get Rid of Bad Breath
Now that we’ve outlined the most common causes, how do we fix it? How exactly do we get rid of bad breath? Below we’ve outlined the best bad breath remedies and the reasons why they’re so effective.
Given that the biggest cause for bad breath is poor dental hygiene, it makes sense that this is the most effective bad breath cure. There are four major components to dental hygiene that make up your standard oral care routine: your toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and mouthwash. We’ll look through each one below and suggest the best method for eliminating bad breath in each area.
The first (and most important) thing you should do when treating bad breath is to make sure you’re following a healthy oral care routine. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes each. Get yourself a stopwatch and make sure you’re actually brushing for the full two minutes. Make sure to target all areas of your mouth, including underneath your tongue and back by your wisdom teeth.
Concerning your toothbrush, simply put, electric toothbrushes are better at getting rid of germs, bacteria, plaque and tartar than manual ones. If you’ve struggled with bad breath for some time and you’re still using a manual toothbrush, you might want to look into switching to an electric one. While the prices are certainly steeper, getting a new electric toothbrush doesn’t have to break the bank.
For a capable but lower priced model, check out the Philips Sonicare 2 Series toothbrush. It’s at a great intersection between cheap but reliable. The brush heads will cost a bit more to replace than a manual toothbrush every few months but the advantage is you can customize them towards removing plaque, thus improving the smell of your breath.
You can check out our full review of the Philips Sonicare 2 Series here.
The second major component of oral health is the toothpaste that you use. Usually I’d say any toothpaste is pretty good at keeping your mouth healthy. This is still true, but if you’re specifically targeting bad breath, choosing the best toothpaste for bad breath can be crucial.
The best toothpaste for we’ve found for treating bad breath is TheraBreath’s PLUS Fresh Breath Toothpaste. We’ll mention TheraBreath again here pretty soon because they’re pretty darned great at coming up with products that treat bad breath. You’ll find this to be very true when using their toothpaste. It focuses on correcting the pH levels in your mouth and targeting specific bacterial growth areas to eliminate halitosis.
Flossing is a major component of your oral health, but using regular floss might not be helping a whole lot for your bad breath. There’s been a lot of hustle and bustle lately about how effective flossing is in the first place. Regardless, if you’re looking to treat bad breath, regular floss isn’t your best tool.
We’d suggest looking towards picking up a water flosser. The main reason here is that the water pressure can actually get to the deeper parts of oral tissue. Standard floss can only reach 2-3mm below your gum line, but bacteria can embed itself as low as 6mm below. Using a high pressure water flosser will penetrate the full 6mm and help to get rid of the germs that can cause bad breath. Additionally, it’ll remove more plaque in your mouth overall, leading to less tooth decay and less extreme acid attacks.
Again, picking up a water flosser doesn’t need to be expensive. Waterpik’s Ultra Water Flosser (that’s actually the name, not just what we think of it!) is relatively cheap as far as Waterpiks go. If you’re also looking to pick up an electric toothbrush, by far and away the best deal you can get is grabbing Waterpik’s Complete Care setup. It basically costs the same as a Waterpik Ultra, but comes with a very capable electric toothbrush.
For the full guide on choosing a Waterpik, click here.
Finally, we come to mouthwash. It’s a pretty major tool in your tool belt of bad breath remedies.
There are a lot of options out there for mouthwashes that cure bad breath, but again we’re going to suggest looking towards TheraBreath. It’s had a monumental impact on halitosis problems since its birth in 1994 and is pretty much the best mouthwash for bad breath on the market. The TheraBreath Fresh Breath Oral Rinse should be the first thing anyone with bad breath purchases. It really is that good.
The idea here is the same as the toothpaste. TheraBreath’s mouthwash targets varying pH levels in your mouth along with bacteria that emits sulfur compounds. These are the two biggest issues that lead to bad breath, and this mouthwash fixes both of them really well. If you’re looking to grab TheraBreath’s toothpaste as well, save yourself some money and go with the TheraBreath combo pack – it comes with both. For less than a tank of gas (excluding you battery vehicle folks) you could have your bad breath cured for months.
Concerning frequency, rinsing your mouth regularly after eating or drinking can be a big help. I’d suggest you do this with something that’s a bit cheaper and is non-alcoholic. Something simple and natural like JASON Mouthwash is super cheap (around $.051 per ounce), completely natural and will help you get rid of food and bacteria after a meal, snack or drink. It makes for a pretty effective natural bad breath remedy.
Tongue Scraper or Tongue Brush
If you’re pretty satisfied with your oral health but still have bad breath, you might want to check out a tongue scraper or tongue brush. I personally hate the term “tongue scraper” because it sounds far more painful and dramatic than “tongue brush” but they’re both the same thing.
The idea here is to target that layer of bacterial infused mucus we talked about earlier. Even with a real good scrubbin’, sometimes a toothbrush just isn’t up to the task of taking down that mucus. For those situations I’d recommend getting a tongue brush and using it daily. Something like the Orabrush Tongue Cleaner is super cheap but can have a huge impact on the smell of your breath.
Similar to a toothbrush, you’ll want to make sure you’re replacing these about every three months or so. The advantage of using a tongue brush is the micro-pointed bristles. These small bristles are really effective at taking down that layer of mucus, but they’ll wear out after repeated use.
Generally, using a tongue brush once per day will be all that’s necessary, but there’s no harm in using it every time you brush (which should be twice a day!).
Sugar Free Gum
We mentioned earlier that saliva production is huge for treating halitosis. Even for those without any dry mouth issues, increasing saliva production might be the most effective bad breath remedy.
The issue with most standard gum is that it’s packed with sugar. That pretty much ends of doing far more harm than good when it comes to your oral health. Looking towards a sugar free option opens a lot of doors though. The idea here is to have something in your mouth continually that’ll increase saliva production. A sugar free gum or lozenge will do just that. The most effective solution will likely be Xylimelt for Dry Mouth lozenges. This is a tad expensive, but it’ll definitely get the job done. If you’re on a bit more of a budget, check out Glee Gum – it’s only about 5 per piece.
Avoid Certain Foods
If you’re looking for options that don’t include spending money, making small changes to your diet can help significantly. Avoiding food and drink such as coffee, soda, citrus products and dairy products can help a lot. The big issue here is moderation. Removing dairy products entirely from your diet will be a difficult change, but reducing them to a reasonable level can help. Also, try out different types of food. You may find that switching from drinking a glass of milk in the morning to having a dairy based yogurt helps with your bad breath and still gets you your daily dairy supplements.
As always, removing products from your diet that encourage pH changes will help a lot. This includes sugary products like candy as well as products that are acidic, such as citrus based fruits (i.e. oranges and lemons) along with most kinds of soda. Even diet soda is pretty bad for your teeth. The sugar isn’t there but the acidity is.
I’d suggest making these changes gradually over the period of one or two months. Major diet changes can be difficult to maintain, but smaller ones are easier to stomach. Try limiting yourself to one soda a day for three weeks and see how that goes. If you’re successful, try to push yourself further. If you’re not, try to assess why that change didn’t work for you and focus on fixing that.
How to Get Rid of Bad Breath Wrap Up
Figuring out how to get rid of bad breath can be a pretty tough thing to deal with, mainly because it can be the result of so many different things. The major key in treating it is to approach the subject systematically. Try changing only one thing at a time and see what the effect is. Start off using cheaper and easier methods and gradually work towards larger lifestyle changes and more expensive products if you don’t find a solution.
Make sure to keep a positive outlook on the issue. There’s certainly a solution out there, you’ll just need to find it. That may take a week, it may take a year. The improvement from having a good smelling mouth is significant though, so don’t give up!