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How to prevent bad breath: 10 ways to stop halitosis

Bad breath is quite common among people. Find out expert-backed tips on how to prevent bad breath or halitosis, and smell fresh.
Bad breath can be prevented. Image courtesy: Freepik
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 13 May 2024, 03:52 pm IST
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Bad breath is a common oral health problem that is often associated with the food we consume. The main culprits are strong-smelling foods such as onions and garlic. If you do not regularly brush your teeth and floss, food may remain in your mouth and that tends to attract bacteria. Once the food gets collected on the teeth or gums, it may rot, causing an unpleasant odour. But these two are not the only causes of bad breath or halitosis. Read on to know more about it and how to prevent bad breath.

What is bad breath?

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is characterised by an unpleasant odour that comes from the mouth. It is often caused by bacteria breaking down food particles in the mouth, leading to foul-smelling compounds being released, explains dental surgeon Dr Sacheev Nanda. It is a condition affecting about 50 to 65 percent of the world population, according to a 2021 research published in the Medicina journal. It can be temporary or chronic and may indicate underlying dental or health issues.

Bad breath is a common oral health problem. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What are the causes of bad breath?

Bad breath can stem from various causes, including:

  • Inadequate brushing, flossing, and tongue cleaning that can allow bacteria to accumulate in the mouth.
  • Certain foods like onions, garlic, and spicy foods contain volatile compounds that can linger in the mouth.
  • Saliva helps cleanse the mouth by washing away food particles and bacteria. A decrease in saliva production, often caused by dehydration, can result in bad breath.
  • Gum disease, cavities, and other dental problems can provide a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Tobacco products can leave a lingering odour in the mouth, as well as contribute to gum disease and dry mouth.
  • Conditions such as sinus infections, respiratory tract infections, acid reflux, diabetes, and liver or kidney disease can cause bad breath.

What are the ways to prevent bad breath?

You can prevent bad breath by following these tips:

1. Maintain good oral hygiene

Brush your teeth at least two times in a day with fluoride toothpaste, and floss every day, especially after eating, suggests the expert. This helps remove food particles and plaque, which can contribute to bad breath.

2. Clean your tongue

While brushing your teeth, make sure to use a tongue scraper to gently clean your tongue every day. Bacteria can accumulate not just between your teeth, but also on the tongue’s surface, leading to bad breath.

3. Stay hydrated

Drinking water throughout the day is important for your oral health. It will help keep your mouth moist. Saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, preventing dry mouth, which is a common cause of bad breath.

4. Chew sugar-free gum or mints

Have sugar-free chewing gum or mints after consuming strong-smelling food and drinks, according to the UK’s National Health Service. Chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free mints can stimulate saliva production, which helps cleanse the mouth and freshen breath. Look for products containing xylitol, which may also inhibit the growth of bacteria, says Dr Nanda.

5. Eat crunchy fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables should be part of your diet to remain healthy. Snack on crunchy vegetables and fruits like carrots, celery, and apples. These foods can help clean the teeth and stimulate saliva production, reducing the risk of bad breath.

Carrots may help you deal with bad breath. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

6. Avoid strong-smelling foods

It may be a bit difficult, but limit your consumption of foods with strong odours, such as garlic, onions, and spicy dishes. These foods can linger in the mouth and contribute to bad breath.

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7. Quit smoking

If you have a habit of smoking, quit it. Tobacco products can cause persistent bad breath, stain teeth, and irritate gum tissues, says the expert. Quitting smoking or using tobacco products can significantly improve your breath and overall oral health.

8. Use mouthwash

Rinse your mouth with an antimicrobial mouthwash or mouth rinse containing ingredients like chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, or essential oils. These products can help reduce bacteria in the mouth and freshen your breath. There are natural mouthwash options too.

9. Drink green tea

Green tea contains polyphenols, which have antibacterial properties that can help reduce the growth of odour-causing bacteria in the mouth. So, drink green tea twice a day, as it may help prevent bad breath.

10. Probiotics

To promote fresh breath, you can have probiotics, which are found in fermented foods such as yogurt. Probiotics may relieve halitosis in the short term, as per an analysis published in the BMJ Open journal in 2022.

When to see a doctor?

If bad breath persists despite regular brushing, flossing, tongue cleaning, and taking other preventive measures, it may indicate an underlying health issue that requires attention, says the expert. Bad breath can sometimes be a symptom of medical conditions such as diabetes, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal disorders, liver or kidney disease.

Bad breath can also be a sign of gum disease (periodontitis) or tooth decay (cavities). If you notice signs of gum disease, such as red, swollen, or bleeding gums, or if you have persistent tooth pain or sensitivity, it is crucial to see a dentist.

Bad breath is a common problem that mostly arises due to oral hygiene issues or certain foods. You can prevent bad breath by staying hydrated, watching what you eat and maintaining good oral hygiene. But if there is an underlying health issue, you need to explore treatments for it.

Natalia Ningthoujam

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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