How To Get Rid of Bad Breath
The proper oral care needed to get rid of bad breath and prevent it from coming back.
Have you ever been disappointed by an oral care product's claim that it will eliminate your bad breath only to find that it only masks your bad breath temporarily? Read this article in order to discover how to truly get rid of bad breath. It is not as easy as the market would have you believe, but it is possible with the right knowledge, tools, and actions.
- A Brief Overview of What Causes Bad Breath
- How to Get Rid of Bad Breath
- How To Prevent Bad Breath From Returning
A Brief Overview of What Causes Bad Breath
Bad breath is caused by an overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria producing foul smelling gasses due to one or more of the following:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Dry Mouth (xerostomia)
- Sinus infections, throat infections, post nasal drip and allergies
- Tonsilloliths (tonsil stones)
- Oral Infections
- Gum Diseases
This article is going to focus on treating the main cause of bad breath: Poor oral hygiene. 90% of the cases of halitosis are due to anaerobic bacteria in the mouth, and proper oral hygiene can usually fix it. If you suspect that it might be caused by one of the other causes of bad breath such as dry mouth, sinus/throat/oral infections, post nasal drip, allergies, tonsil stones, or gum diseases - seek help from a qualified professional or read our articles on those specific causes.
Read our for article on What Causes Bad Breath for more information on the causes and symptoms of bad breath.
Get Professional Help
If you are serious about getting your bad breath under control and if you haven't been to the dentist in the past year, you need to visit the dentist and get a check-up and a cleaning. You may have some oral problems that you don't know about that are causing bad breath. Tartar and plaque contribute to the growth of bacteria so it would be a good idea to get a good cleaning to remove as much of that as possible.
How to Get Rid of Bad Breath
Since we know what causes bad breath: Friendly Environment + Food + Time, we can figure out how to eliminate bad breath. The equation is fairly simply:
Remedy for Bad Breath
- Get rid of proteins the bacteria eat
- Create a unfriendly environment for the bacteria
We will now go through each of these steps and elaborate on what it means.
1. Get rid of proteins the bacteria eat
Contrary to what the oral care market would have you believe, which toothpaste or mouthwash you use is not that important. What is most important in getting rid of bad breath and preventing it is the consistent mechanical removal of the proteins and particles that anaerobic bacteria feed upon. Going directly after anaerobic bacteria with harsh chemicals such as alcohol in mouthwashes and other antibacterial substances doesn't work as well as one would think. Try it, gargle and swish Listerine after every meal without practising any other oral care and you will find that bad breath returns quickly despite what advertising would leave you to believe. The consistent mechanical removal of the proteins is largely dependant on your technique and the tools you use to remove those proteins such as toothbrushes, floss, tongue scrapers, etc and not the pastes or liquids you buy.
In order to remove the proteins (food particles, dead cells, mucus) the bacteria eat, you need to do more than just brush your teeth. A proper oral care regimen depends on each individual. For example if you have braces, you need to do specific procedures in order to properly clean your teeth. If you have partially erupted wisdom teeth, you need to properly irrigate them. If you suffer from post-nasal drip or allergies, you need to incorporate nasal irrigation into your daily oral care regimen. If you suffer from tonsil stones, you need to remove them regularly.
A Comprehensive Oral Care Regimen
A comprehensive oral care regimen for your average person consists of the following in order of which you do them:
Flossing - Flossing is one of the most neglected yet crucial procedure in getting rid of bad breath. It is also very important for your dental health. If you are serious about getting rid of your bad breath you have to floss your teeth on a daily basis, preferably right before you go to bed so anaerobic bacteria don't have the opportunity to feast on the food particles in between your teeth all night.
Oil Pulling (Optional) - Oil pulling is a procedure in which one swishes oil (coconut, sesame, sunflower, olive, or almond) in his/her mouth for 15 minutes. It is believed to pull bacteria, toxins, and parasites from your saliva and tissues in your mouth. It has few studies proving it's effectiveness but many people do it daily with great results.
Water Pik - The Waterpik is an excellent tool that uses a pressurized water jet to clean out particles between your teeth and from the gingival sulcus (the space between the gums and teeth). I like to floss and use a Waterpik because I feel flossing does a better job at removing large particles and that the Waterpik is excellent at flushing out smaller particles. If you are going to do only one, I suggest using a Waterpik because it is easier to use with good technique.
Nasal Irrigating (Optional) - Nasal irrigation is the process of flushing out the nasal cavity with a saline solution. If you regularly suffer from allergies, post-nasal drip, chronic sinus infections, or a runny nose - it is important that you irrigate your nasal cavity daily. Nasal irrigating flushes out all the allergens, pollutants, bacteria, dust, and other unwanted particles from the nasal cavity. If the cause of your bad breath is coming from your nose or sinuses (less then 8% of halitosis originate from here) then nasal irrigation is an important procedure in treating your bad breath.
Brush Tongue - The tongue (especially the part of the tongue at the back of your mouth) is a major region where anaerobic bacteria reside and cause bad breath. Before you brush your teeth it is a good idea to brush your tongue gently with baking soda or an oxygenating toothpaste like TheraBreath with a soft bristled tongue or tooth brush. This loosens particles and bacteria from your tongue. Leave the paste on your tongue until you scrape it off after you brush. This gives the baking soda or paste time to kill bacteria and neutralize odorous compounds.
Brush Teeth - Brushing your teeth is very important and most people who suffer from bad breath do it yet they do not do it properly. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day, but ideally after each main meal and before you go to bed. Brushing your teeth vigorously in back and forth motions is not the right way to brush your teeth and may even damage your gums. At BreathMD we love the Philips Sonicare. It is important to brush after each meal. Read our article on brushing your teeth to learn about the proper way to brush your teeth.
Scrape Tongue - After you brush your teeth is the time to scrape of the particles and bacteria off your tongue. Scraping your tongue regularly is one of the easiest and most effective tool in getting rid of and preventing bad breath.
Use Mouthwash - Using mouthwash is effective at lowering the acidity of your mouth, killing bacteria, and temporarily neutralizing the odorous compounds that are in your mouth. Do not use mouthwashes that contain alcohol as they dry out the mouth. Although somewhat effective, we believe most people are misled in believing mouthwash gets rid of their bad breath when in reality it masks it with pleasant odors for a few hours. Using mouthwash does not replace other mechanical methods of removing proteins such as flossing, scraping your tongue, and properly brushing your teeth. Read our article on using mouthwash to learn about the best mouthwashes and the best way to gargle and use them.
Take Oral Probiotics (Optional) - Research has been done that suggest certain strains of bacteria are beneficial in reducing plaque formation and hindering the colonization of bad breath causing anaerobic bacteria. Read our article on oral probiotics to learn more about this.
2. Create a unfriendly environment for the bacteria
A mouth that is low in oxygen, is slightly acidic, and that is dry is a prime place for anaerobic bacteria to colonize. In order to create a more uninhabitable environment you need to make sure your mouth isn't dry, is slightly alkaline, and has oxygen.
Saliva contains oxygen so it is important to have good saliva flow in your mouth. In order to increase saliva flow it is important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Also when your mouth feels dry chew on a piece of sugar-free gum or suck on a mint. If you suffer from chronic xerostomia (dry mouth), you should look into products that contain saliva stimulants or substitutes. Check out this list of dry mouth products.
Other than increasing saliva flow, another way to increase oxygen that kills bacteria is to gargle mouthwashes that contain oxygenating chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide. There are also toothpastes that contain these chemicals. Therabreath is a company that contains oxygenating compounds in their products.
In order to lower the acidity in your mouth, you can avoid acidic and spicy foods, or use products that lower acidity. Baking soda is excellent at lowering acid levels. After your oral care regimen or after you eat, you can swish a sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) solution for a minute and then spit it out. Do not rinse your mouth out after.
During the day most people snack on food. Although it is not absolutely necessary to brush your teeth after each snack, it is a good idea to snack on foods that minimize bad breath. Read our article on foods that foods and drinks that prevent bad breath. It is also a good idea to be aware of and avoid foods and drinks that cause bad breath.
Probiotics can also create competition in your mouth for the bacteria, where friendly bacteria are competing for the same space as the anaerobic bacteria. Read more about this in our oral probiotics article.
Although creating an unfriendly environment for the anaerobic bacteria is effective, getting rid of the food source for anaerobic bacteria through proper oral care as outlined above is much more important. This step should be thought of as a bonus, because doing this alone will not get rid of bad breath. Creating an unfriendly environment for bacteria is more of a preventative measure against bad breath, rather then a tool for getting rid of it.
There is no magic mouthwash, toothpaste, or gum that will get rid of your bad breath and prevent it from coming back. Getting rid of bad breath is not an instant process. It requires patient consistent effort. Do not give up immediately after trying the full oral care regimen above because you notice that your bad breath returns a couple hours later. It takes weeks to reduce the population of anaerobic bacteria to a healthy low level. If you are serious about treating your bad breath or about preventing it from coming back, you need to put in the time and effort. The full oral care regimen above can take awhile, but it is worth it in the end. We know you might lead busy lives, and it is hard to fit proper oral care in. We encourage you to read our article Oral Care on The Go to learn how to maintain fresh breath despite your busy schedule.
How To Prevent Bad Breath From Returning
Preventing bad breath from returning is continuing the same process you used to get rid of your halitosis in the first place: regular dental check-ups from professionals, consistent proper oral hygiene, and avoiding foods and drinks that cause bad breath. If you do the entire oral care regimen listed above each night before bed, you will be on the right track on preventing bad breath from coming back.
Please read the other oral care articles we have on this website. We hope you find this information useful and that you apply it to your life. Please comment below if you have any questions or comments.