What is Halitosis (Bad Breath)?
Halitosis, commonly known as bad breath, is an embarrassing health condition that affects approximately 30% of people around the world. Additional medical terms for this condition include stomatodysodia, fetor oris, and ozostomia. Regardless of the term used, this is the presence of a foul-smelling odor that seems to come from the mouth cavity. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, in more than 90% of cases, the odor originates in the mouth, throat, and tonsils. Although this is something everyone experiences at one time or another, if your case does not improve after brushing, flossing, and rinsing the mouth with an alcohol free mouthwash, it may be chronic.
The foul oral odor is usually caused by a group of anaerobic, sulfur-producing bacteria that breed beneath the surface of the tongue and often in the throat and tonsil area. The term “anaerobic” literally means living without oxygen, and in fact, these bacteria do not require oxygen to live. They occur naturally in the oral environment and are essential because they assist in digestion by breaking down proteins into amino acids. Proteins are commonly found in food, mucus or phlegm, blood, and in diseased oral tissue.
As these bacteria feast on proteins in your mouth, sulfur compounds are released from the back of your tongue and throat. The bacteria excrete waste as hydrogen sulfide, methyl mercaptan, and other odorous and bad tasting compounds known as volatile sulfur compounds. As long as the anaerobic bacteria feed on proteins and excrete volatile sulfur compounds unchecked, your breath will become worse and worse.
Offensive breath tells us that something is out of balance. In fact, anthropologists have reported that once humans started to kiss each other, the ability to smell one another’s breath became a very important way to test a partner’s compatibility. If the other person didn’t pass the smell test, they were not able to get to the next step towards securing a mate.
Halitosis is a medical condition that lowers self-esteem and affects everyday life and personal relationships. People with chronic or recurring bad breath often lose their self-confidence. It can be difficult to know if you have this problem, because it is often challenging to pick up on one’s own scent. Furthermore, family members and colleagues may not feel comfortable telling you. One of the best ways to find out if you have foul breath is to lick the inside of your wrist, wait five seconds, and then take a whiff.
Six Bad Breath Home Remedies
The practice of a few, simple, self-care techniques can help to minimize halitosis. There are several things you can do at home.
- Advanced oral care products: Use oral care products such as mouthwashes and toothpastes that have been shown to be effective in fighting bad breath.
- Proper oral care: Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. Be sure to get a toothbrush with soft bristles (as to not damage tooth enamel or gums) and also use fluoride toothpaste. Brushing and flossing helps to remove any food and plaque which can be used as a fuel source by the anaerobic, sulfur-producing bacteria that are at the root of this problem.
- Stimulate your salivary flow: Prevent dry mouth with chewing gum, lozenges, or mints that are sugar free. Look for Xylitol, a non-sucrose sweetener, which in recent years has been shown to have anti-cavity properties.
- Eat fibrous fruits and vegetables: One of the best ways to remove bacteria in the mouth is to eat an apple a day. It helps moisten the mouth, too.
- Take a dietary supplement: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B are effective at helping your body eliminate excess mucus and toxins naturally.
- Brush your teeth occasionally with baking soda: The bacteria that cause bad breath thrive in an acidic oral environment. Brushing your teeth with baking soda helps neutralize excess acids found in the oral cavity.
Easy Ways to Prevent Bad Breath
Please remember, preventing halitosis is always easier than treating it. By developing the right habits, you can effectively help prevent it.
- Eat foods rich in fiber: High fiber foods help prevent halitosis. Avoid eating heavily processed foods that contain refined carbohydrates such as cookies, cakes, sweets and ice cream.
- Use mouthwash: Some mouthwashes or oral rinses are effective at preventing bad breath. However, you should never use alcohol based mouthwashes because the alcohol makes the mouth very dry, which will actually make the problem worse.
- Drink green and black teas: They contain polyphenols that help eliminate sulfur compounds and reduce oral bacteria.
- Avoid drying medication: Try not to take antidepressants, diuretics, pain relievers, and antihistamines unless it is absolutely medically necessary. These drugs inhibit saliva flow and can cause chronic dry mouth.
- Avoid products with sodium lauryl sulfate or alcohol: Do not use any oral hygiene products that contain sodium lauryl sulfate or alcohol because the alcohol makes the mouth very dry, one of the most common causes of bad breath.
- Clean your mouth after eating meat, fish or dairy products: Practicing consistent and thorough oral hygiene is an effective prevention tool.
- Stop smoking: Studies have shown that smokers are at higher risk of developing periodontal disease and dry mouth. Furthermore, people who smoke may also engage in other habits that promote this condition such as dieting, drinking alcohol, and suffering from chronic anxiety conditions that require exacerbating prescription medications.
- Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth: Try to address any snoring or sleep apnea issues that could be affecting your breath and causing dry mouth.
- Drink water: Keep your mouth moist by drinking plenty of water.
- Clean your dentures at least once a day: Practice the same, proper oral care that you would with your original teeth.
- Eliminate dairy products from your diet: Lactose intolerance can be an underlying cause of halitosis.
- Use an oral probiotic like S. salivarius K12 and M18: Use probiotics to balance the oral cavity and prevent an overgrowth of the odor-causing bacteria involved in halitosis.
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