Bad breath; we all have it sometimes – some more than others, but no one’s exempt. It ranks up there with some of the nastiest odors known to man, and can definitely be a game changer if left untreated.
Mornings and certain foods like garlic and onions have a way of victimizing us all. However, those situations can be easily remedied with a toothbrush or piece of gum, but what about the more serious cases that mouthwash can’t seem to conquer? What’s a guy to do when he just can’t escape the unfortunate reality of halitosis, and all the embarrassment that goes along with it?
Halitosis, or bad breath, is typically caused by poor dental hygiene, which translates into not brushing or flossing teeth as often as it should be done. It’s a sad situation, and unfortunately, more common than you’d think. Bacteria builds up in the mouth and causes odor; much like any other part of the body in need of a good cleaning. Overtime, lack of oral cleanliness turns into much more than just dirty teeth and temporary bad breath. Teeth decay and gums become diseased; both capable of giving off a foul stench. Diseased gums recede and eventually lose their ability to hold teeth in place; causing them to loosen and fall out. All that, in addition to killing your image, makes taking a few minutes, a couple times a day, to floss and brush worth the effort… BIG TIME!
Dieting and fasting, especially over prolonged periods of time, often cause bad breath. The lack of food causes the body to utilize or break down stored fat and protein, which get used as fuel. The waste from this process has a foul odor, which actually gets released from the lungs when we exhale. The odor does not come from the empty stomach, which is often thought to be the cause.
There are those of us, who, despite diligence with oral hygiene, still struggle with bad breath. Trying to find the cause can be very difficult and frustrating because the source of the problem isn’t always obvious. In fact, it’s often not. Typically, chronic bad breath is an indication of an underlying health problem, and for that reason alone should not be ignored.
There are many causes of halitosis, but some of the more common reasons beyond poor hygiene include: smoking, post nasal drip, acid reflux, infection of the nose, throat, lungs or windpipe, poor diet, esophageal (esophagus) disease, constipation, alcohol abuse, indigestion, high amounts of unfriendly bacteria in the gut, diabetes, liver or kidney malfunction, improper protein digestion, yeast infections of the mouth or colon, hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid), mercury fillings in the teeth, sore throats and even stress. Some of these causes can be managed by the individual, without the aid of a doctor, but if you can’t get the issue under control, see a doctor… sooner than later. A (GP) general practitioner, a Gastroenterologist (doctor who deals with the digestive track), or Allergist (allergy doctor) are probably the most qualified doctors for the job, depending on the cause. Since the cause is often unknown, it makes sense to start out with your GP.
The following is a list of tips you can try at home. If you don’t get the results you’re after – neutral smelling breath – it may be time to see the doc.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, for a minimum of two minutes each time. Brushing after meals or snacks is the best way to prevent tooth decay and bad breath. If you’re unable to brush after eating, rinsing your mouth with water is a smart alternative. Don’t forget to brush your tongue and gums.
- Don’t use conventional mouthwash. Most mouthwashes consist primarily of alcohol, which initially kills bacteria. However, the sugar in alcohol causes the bacteria to return in greater number. Bacteria is not your mouth’s friend; for it causes tooth decay and gum disease. If you choose to use a mouthwash, consider using one without alcohol, which can be found in most health food stores. Mouthwashes with chlorophyll are a great choice, since chlorophyll is very cleansing.
- A mixture of 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 3 parts water makes a great mouthwash for killing bacteria and bringing oxygen to gums after brushing. Expect the peroxide to foam in your mouth for a few minutes after you finish. ALWAYS spit the mouthwash out, including what continues to foam. DO NOT SWALLOW IT… as is the case with all mouthwashes.
- Keep toothbrushes clean, and replace them when the bristles begin to separate and flatten, or once a month for the traditional, non-electric/battery type. Old, used up toothbrushes do not clean properly, no matter how long you brush. Toothbrushes hold onto bacteria even after being rinsed off, so if bacteria is a problem for you, storing your toothbrush in a container of hydrogen peroxide or grapefruit seed extract, which kill bacteria, is very helpful.
- Flossing is important because it removes food that gets stuck between teeth, which will decay and cause bad breath, cavities and gum disease.
- Use a tongue scraper, which literally scrapes bacteria and food residue off the tongue. A white coated tongue, or thrush, usually indicates excessive yeast in the body. Excessive yeast is often a result of a high carbohydrate or sugary diet, extreme alcohol consumption, and certain drugs such as steroids.
- Take high quality probiotics – the good bacteria found in yogurt, kefir and supplements. Frequently eating foods containing probiotics is fine for maintaining good bacteria in the gut, but if you have a serious yeast problem, you’ll need greater amounts than what’s found in food – so take a probiotic supplement. They come in capsules, liquids and chewable tablets.
- Try a fresh lemon and water cleanse to detoxify your system for several days. Two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon per glass of water taken several times a day is recommended. However, be sure to brush your teeth, or at least rinse your mouth, after drinking it, since citrus foods eat away at tooth enamel.
- Aim to eat a diet high in raw foods. 50/50 is a great ratio. Raw foods are beneficial for overall health; plus they don’t leave as much plaque on teeth as softer, cooked foods.
- Eat a sprig of parsley after a meal. Parsley’s original reason for being added to a plate of food was for this reason, not to decorate the platter. Try it – you’ll like it!
- Chlorophyll cleanses the bloodstream and colon, which is where bad breath often starts. Alfalfa is a great source of chlorophyll and can be found in tablet or liquid form.
- Various herbs can be chewed on to freshen breath: fennel seed, peppermint, myrrh and rosemary are a few of the more popular herbs used. If using dry herbs, ¼ – ½ teaspoon at one time should be enough. I recommend discarding any dry herb after it’s been chewed for a few minutes, instead of swallowing it. Toothpastes containing these herbs are beneficial, as well.
- Drink, drink, drink lots of water! Water rinses the mouth out, and flushes bacteria down the drain into your gut. It also increases saliva production, which will also keep bacteria on the run. Morning breath is nasty because of the decrease in saliva that occurs due to dehydration during sleep hours.
- Don’t rely on the old “exhale and sniff” test we do in our hand. You’re most likely only smelling your hand.
Since most cases of bad breath can be handled with good oral hygiene practices and common sense measures, daily maintenance can usually prevent halitosis. It’s bound to happen from time to time, but we usually have the power to prevent it from occurring on a daily basis. Again, I urge you to see a doctor if you can’t get it under control – not only for the sake of clean smelling breath, but for your overall health. Now, go brush your teeth!
by Aaron Marino