Bad breath is one of those things that’s a bit hard to talk about. Realizing that you have bad breath can be a little bit embarrassing and telling someone that they have bad breath is super awkward.
On top of that, it’s actually quite hard to judge your own breath so while some people might be paranoid that they have bad breath when they don’t, others might be walking around blissfully unaware that they have terrible breath.
All in all, it can be easier just to pretend the problem doesn't exist.
Treating bad breath doesn't have to be scary or embarrassing. In fact, it’s often just a case of making a few healthy adjustments and prioritizing self care. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the major causes of bad breath and how we can get rid of them once and for all.
Why does my breath smell bad?
Bad breath, sometimes referred to as Halitosis, can be caused by a number of different things.
Sometimes, it’s down to a simple matter of poor oral health. Other times, it can be caused by side effects from medications, infections in the mouth, nose, or throat. Bad breath could also be a result of medical conditions such as some cancers, metabolic disorders, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (also known as GERD).
Smoking and tobacco products can also cause bad odors in the mouth. It increases the likelihood of gum disease which is another condition that can contribute to bad breath. If you are a smoker and are worried about bad breath it may be a good idea to quit. If you are looking to quit smoking, Babylon Health may be able to assist with that effort.
Dry mouth is another key contributor. Saliva is a natural cleanser for your mouth as it removes particles that can create a bad smell. Whether you have dry mouth as a result of alcohol consumption, medications, or other medical issues such as problems with your salivary glands, the fact that you don’t have enough saliva in your mouth could be the reason your breath smells. An example of this is when the decrease in saliva production while you sleep causes bad morning breath.
Can bad breath be cured permanently?
Before you can figure out how to get rid of bad breath, you first need to identify what causes bad breath for you. If it’s a result of an infection or a side effect to a specific medication, you may be able to consult your doctor or dentist and get rid of bad breath for good.
In most cases, however, bad breath can’t be cured with a one-time fix. When bad breath is a result of poor oral hygiene or diet, it requires consistent self-care to keep it at bay.
That being said, there are plenty of things you can do to make bad breath a thing of the past.
Home remedies for bad breath
The internet is full of advice about how to get rid of bad breath permanently. From baking soda or pineapple to homemade vinegar mouth rinses, there’s no shortage of bad breath remedy options online. While some of these might help (particularly on a temporary basis) there’s no magic potion that can fix all types of bad breath.
If you suffer from chronic bad breath, you should seek advice from your healthcare provider or a dental professional. They will be able to help you identify what is causing your bad breath odor as well as offer advice on how to get rid of it.
In the meantime, here are a few options that may help resolve the issue.
How to cure bad breath with dental hygiene
According to the American Dental Association, bad breath most often starts in the mouth as a result of poor oral hygiene. When you don’t prioritize oral health, food particles can collect on your tongue, between your teeth, and on the gums around them. This buildup, combined with natural bacteria inside your mouth, releases chemicals that can smell.
Good dental hygiene practices include:
- Brushing your teeth with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste twice a day (preferably after eating)
- Floss between your teeth daily
- If you wear dentures, remove and clean them every night
- Brush your tongue (from the back of the tongue) with a tongue scraper
- Buy a new toothbrush regularly
- Attend regular checkups with a qualified dental care professional
Poor dental care and oral hygiene can result in plaque buildup which can lead to gingivitis. Gingivitis can then lead to gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) which is a known cause of bad breath.
Other signs of gum disease include:
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Red or swollen gums
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Pain while chewing
- Tender or bleeding gums
Gum disease is best treated when it is caught early so if you are concerned that you are showing signs of gum disease, consult your dentist.
Top tip: Mouthwash and mouth rinse can be a great temporary solution for bad breath if you are on the go, but it should not replace proper dental hygiene.
How to cure bad breath with your diet
What you are eating could also be having an impact on your breath. Not only does some food have strong odors but some could also be contributing to dental issues like gum disease and tooth decay. If you struggle with bad breath, some foods to avoid include:
- Garlic and onion
- Hard candies (unless directed by health care provider)
- Sugary sports drinks
If you can’t (or don’t want to) remove certain foods from your diet, make sure you brush your teeth after eating problematic foods like garlic to get rid of any residual food particles. If you have a sweet tooth, try replacing candies and sugary snacks with sugar-free gum.
Another good rule of thumb is to drink plenty of water. As we’ve already mentioned, dry mouth can be a contributing factor for bad breath, so drinking water can make sure that your salivary glands are working well and counteract the dehydrating effect of things like coffee and alcohol.
How to cure bad breath with vitamins
Vitamins alone are unlikely to cure bad breath completely, but making sure that you get the right nutrients into your body can help keep your mouth and teeth healthy.
Some key nutrients required for oral health are:
- Vitamin A
- B Vitamins
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
Beware of any ‘quick fix’ supplements and vitamins as many of the nutrients you need can and should be included in your food intake. It is important to follow the correct dosage for each vitamin. Taking too much of certain vitamins can be toxic. For more information about vitamins and supplements for dental health, talk to your dentist at your next check-up.
How to cure bad breath with medication
Most instances of bad breath can be resolved by better dental hygiene, but sometimes it can be caused by a health condition. If you are concerned about chronic bad breath, talk to your healthcare provider or dental practitioner about possible treatment.
For more information about what we at Babylon Health can assist you with, check out our What we Treat page.
- Does drinking water reduce bad breath?
Drinking water helps to prevent dry mouth which can be a cause of bad breath. There are many causes of bad breath, however, simply drinking water may not be the only solution.
- Why does my breath smell bad even after I brush?
There are a number of possible causes for bad breath. One of which is the build up of food particles left in the mouth. These particles get broken down by bacteria and in doing so a bad smell is released. Brushing alone does not remove all of these particles—you also need to floss in between your teeth once a day.
- What food gives you bad breath?
Food like garlic, onions and coffee are known to cause bad breath but other foods such as sugary candies and drinks can affect your oral health in general, which could be the reason for bad breath.
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- Mayo Clinic: Bad breath symptoms causes
- American Dental Association: Bad breath Causes and tips for controlling it
- American Dental Association: Bad breath
- CDC: Periodontal Disease
- Mayo Clinic: Bad breath diagnosis treatment
- American Dental Association: 9 foods that damage your teeth
- American Dental Association: Guide to the-best supplements for healthy teeth