ad breath or halitosis is a sensitive subject that nobody wants to talk about. It is estimated to affect up to 50% of the population, with varying degrees of severity. Many times people who have bad breath are completely unaware of the problem until they are being told by people around them, resulting in social discomfort and embarrassment.
Conventional bad breath remedies like mouthwash, mouth spray, mints, and chewing gum only work for a very short period of time. To take care of bad breath for good, one needs to address the underlying causes of bad breath. The following discusses a wide range of reasons that may bring on bad breath, from potentially life-threatening disorders to something less serious that can be easily remedied. It concludes with a list of additional suggestions on how to get rid of chronic bad breath.
Medical Conditions Associated With Bad Breath
Many illnesses may lead to bad breath, including respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis, chronic sinus infections, postnasal drip, chronic acid reflux, uncontrolled diabetes (fruity smell in breath), chronic kidney disease (fishy/ammonia smell), and liver failure (musty/sweet smell to rotten egg odor).
Another medical condition dry mouth (called xerostomia) may also cause bad breath. Saliva serves the function of moistening the mouth, neutralizing acids produced by plaque, and washing away dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. If not removed, these cells decompose and cause bad breath. Dry mouth may be a side effect of many medications (including antidepressants, diuretics, and aspirin), salivary gland problems, chronic snoring, or continuous breathing through the mouth.
Even normal people produce less saliva while asleep, which leads to dry mouth upon awakening and the dreaded morning breath. It is worse for those who sleep with their mouths open. Lack of sleep and insufficient hydration during awake hours can also lead to dry mouth and bad breath.
Poor Oral Health
Persistent bad breath may be a warning sign of tooth decay or gum (peridontal) disease. People who have gum disease often have space in between their teeth and gums, where food can get stuck, leading to the proliferation of bacteria. In most cases, bad breath stems from these odor-inducing bacteria that reside in between your teeth and gums as well as on your tongue.
Gum disease comes in two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that causes inflammation of the gingiva, the part of your gum around the base of the teeth. The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene. Good oral health habits such as brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, and getting regular dental cleaning can help prevent and reverse gingivitis.
Gingivitis, if not treated, can progress into periodontitis which is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. Periodontitis can cause tooth loss and even an increased risk of heart disease.
Poor Gut Health
The digestive system begins with the mouth and is the habitat of trillions of beneficial bacteria that influence many of your body functions, including the ability to fight off diseases and illnesses. An estimated 80% of your immune system resides inside the gut.
The ratio of good and bad bacteria is crucial to your immunity. When in optimal health, your gut should have somewhere near 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria. Unfortunately, certain factors can decimate the good bacteria, allowing the bad bacteria to proliferate in the gut:
- taking broad-spectrum antibiotics,
- eating factory-farmed meats that contain low-dose antibiotics (on a regular basis),
- drinking chlorinated and/or fluoridated tap water (on a regular basis),
- using antibacterial soap (on a regular basis), and
- consuming produce that have been sprayed with pesticides (on a regular basis).
Bad breath may stem from an overgrowth of bad bacteria as well as candida yeast.
Candida is normally found in small amounts in the human body. Overproduction of candida yeast, particularly in warm, moist body areas such as the mouth, throat, skin, and genitals are usually the result of:
- taking certain medications including antibiotics, birth control pills, and oral corticosteroids,
- cancer treatments that compromise the immune system,
- having conditions such as diabetes or HIV/AIDS, and
- eating a diet high in sugar, refined grains, and alcohol.
Foods That Cause Bad Breath
Onions and garlic. If you eat foods with strong odors, the smells tend to linger in your breath. As your digestive system breaks down these foods, the sulfuric compounds get absorbed into your bloodstream and eventually enter your lungs and lead to bad breath. Brushing, gargling with mouthwash, or taking a mint will help to cover the smell, but it will not completely go away until the food leaves your body.
Canned tuna. Somehow, tuna from a metal can gives you a fishy breath. To combat this problem, splash some lemon juice on the fish before eating. The smell is caused by trimethylamine (TMA) and the acid in the lemon helps to bind the TMA to water, reducing its odor.
Coffee and alcoholic beverages. They can cause dry mouth and allow bacteria to multiply as there is less saliva to wash them away. Therefore, drink plenty of water after having these beverages.
Sticky foods. Caramels and other types of sticky foods can adhere to your teeth and cause decay and bad breath. Either avoid these foods or brush after eating.
Sugary foods and sweetened beverages. They coat your teeth with sugar and cause decay. Unfortunately, most will not think of brushing after consuming these foods and drinks.
Smoking and chewing tobacco. Apart from their own smells, tobacco particles collect in your teeth and lead to bacteria growth the same way food does.
Remedies For Chronic Bad Breath
To truly combat bad breath, work on addressing the root cause of your problem.
Improve oral hygiene.
- Brush twice a day.
- Floss at least once a day though preferably every time after you eat to remove the food particles stuck between the teeth and gums.
- Always rinse with water after eating or drinking something sweet.
- Scrape your tongue (with a tongue scrapper) once a day to remove the overgrowth of bacteria on the surface of the tongue.
- Take a probiotic lozenge that contains these two strains of good bacteria – Streptococcus salivarius K12 and Streptococcus salivarius M18. Studies found that they are very effective against bad breath.
Drink water throughout the day to prevent dry mouth. Know that alcohol-based mouthwashes actually make the mouth dry, which will exacerbate the problem.
Enhance your gut health by boosting the good bacteria.
- Eat fermented foods everyday. They include all sorts of fermented or pickled vegetables, unsweetened yogurt and kefir (fermented milk), and kombucha (fermented tea).
- Take a probiotic supplement daily to increase your good bacteria count.
Avoid taking antibiotics unless it is absolutely necessary. Avoid being exposed to low-dose antibiotics and pesticides by buying organic meats and produce.
If you have candida yeast overgrowth, change your diet by eliminating sugars and grains until your problem is resolved. For severe cases, you may also need to use anti-fungal medications or herbs to get rid of the candida.