How to Have Nice Smelling Breath
Bad breath is a problem that affects most people on occasion, whether during an illness or after a meal. And over 40 million people in the United States alone have a more serious condition: chronic halitosis (persistent bad breath), which may lead to a lack of confidence and fear of socializing. Luckily, keeping your breath fresh is usually easy if you keep your mouth clean, eat right, and use breath fresheners as needed.
- Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day. Brushing your teeth will remove bacteria that can cause bad breath and also prevent smelly, rotting teeth. And don’t forget your tongue, especially the back. One study found that brushing the tongue reduced bad breath by 70%.
- Rinse your mouth with water after eating. Swirling water in your mouth helps to remove bits of food that can lead to bad breath.
- Floss at least once a day. Flossing removes food in places that a toothbrush cannot reach and also removes plaque, a coating of bacteria that forms around teeth. Flossing will also help to prevent periodontal (gum) disease, which is another cause of bad breath.
- Use mouthwash at least once a day. It helps to protect your teeth and kill the bacteria that can cause bad breath. Swish it around your mouth for 30–60 seconds, then gargle it for another 30–60 seconds. Gargling is important for getting at the back of the throat and inside of the cheeks – areas of the mouth that are harder to reach with a toothbrush or floss.
Fluoride mouth rinses kill bacteria, and the fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay.
Gargling with hydrogen peroxide kills mouth bacteria that can cause bad breath.
Avoid mouthwashes with alcohol. They dry out your mouth, which may worsen the problem of bad breath.
- See your dentist every six months. Your dentist will give you a deep cleaning that helps to prevent plaque buildup, and check your mouth for cavities or gum disease, which might cause bad breath. He can also refer you to a doctor if your bad breath appears to be the result of a medical condition, such as a sinus or lung infection, bronchitis, metabolic disfunction, diabetes, or liver or kidney disease.
- Drink lots of water. Lack of fluids can lead to dry mouth, which is a leading cause of bad breath. Water can also dilute any chemicals in your mouth or gut that are causing bad breath.
- Eat yogurt. Studies show that eating 6 ounces of yogurt a day reduces the level of odor-causing compounds in the mouth. In particular, look for yogurt containing the active bacteria Streptococcus thermophilus or Lactobacillus bulgaricus.
- Eat fruits and vegetables. The abrasive nature of fibrous fruits and vegetables helps to clean teeth, while the vitamins, antioxidants, and acids they contain improve dental health. Foods that can be particularly helpful include:
Apples — Apples contain vitamin C, which is necessary for health gums, as well as malic acid, which helps to whiten teeth.
Carrots — Carrots are rich in vitamin A, which strengthens tooth enamel.
Celery — Chewing celery produces a lot of saliva, which helps to neutralize bacteria that cause bad breath.
Pineapples — Pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme that cleans the mouth.
- Drink black, green, or herbal tea. These teas have been shown to kill the bacteria that cause bad breath and plaque.
- Avoid an upset stomach. An upset stomach can lead to burping, which contributes to bad breath. Don’t eat foods that upset your stomach, or if you do, use antacids. If you are lactose intolerant, try lactase tablets.
- Avoid foods heavy in onions, garlic, or spice. They can all cause bad breath. If you do eat them, bring sugar-free gum or a toothbrush and toothpaste to freshen your mouth afterwards.
- Watch out for low-carb diets. Diets low in carbohydrates lead to ketosis — a state in which the body burns primarily fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. This may be good for your waistline, but it also produces chemicals called ketones, which contribute to bad breath. To stop the problem, you must change your diet. Or, you can combat the smell in one of these ways:
Drink lots of water to dilute the ketones.
Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless mints.
Chew mint leaves.
- Check your sinuses. Sinus infections or post-nasal drip (mucus running from your sinuses back into your throat) are responsible for up to 10% of cases of bad breath. There are a number of ways to combat it:
See your doctor. You may need an antibiotic to cure a sinus infection.
Use over-the-counter medication to dry up your sinuses and prevent mucus buildup.
Try a saline spray to thin mucus and make it easier to expel.
Try a sinus irrigator to rinse out your sinuses.
- Know that some medicines cause bad breath. Some medications will dry out your mouth, causing bad breath, while others contain chemicals that lead directly to bad breath. In particular, watch for the following medications:
Nitrites and nitrates.
Some chemotherapy medicines.
- Stop smoking to cure bad breath. Smoking can leave your mouth smelling like an ashtray. The only permanent solution is to stop smoking, but you can also use mints or other breath fresheners to cover the smell.