Bad breath or halitosis may seem like a trivial problem as compared to life-threatening health conditions like heart disease and cancer. After all, no-one has ever died from bad breath, unless of course the embarrassment kills you. Sadly, persistent bad breath is a buzzkill in social situations, whether you’re conversing with a co-worker or leaning in for that first kiss. This can give rise to feelings of insecurity, social awkwardness, and low self esteem, severely compromising your quality of life. It really doesn’t have to be this way. Bad breath is not something that you have to endure and it can be dealt with pretty easily and with just a little effort. Of course before you dive straight into those bad breath remedies, it helps to understand what causes bad breath so that you can try to prevent or reduce the severity of the problem.
What Causes Bad Breath?
Bad breath is most commonly caused by poor dental health, which could include plaque buildup, gum disease, cavities, tooth decay, and a white or yellow coating on the tongue. All of these conditions are caused by the presence of oral bacteria that exist naturally in our mouths. Lingering food residue allows and encourages bacterial overgrowth, which leads to dental disease and bad breath. The foul odor actually emanates from the breakdown of food particles by these bacterial populations. In some cases, this problem may arise despite your strict adherence to a good dental hygiene routine and it can be linked with other causes.
In some individuals, malnutrition or specific nutritional deficiencies can give rise to the problem. Bad breath may also be linked to conditions like heartburn, diabetes and dryness of the mouth, as well as upper respiratory tract infections that cause sinusitis or sore throats. Bad breath that surfaces sporadically however, is most likely linked to your food choices and eating habits. Certain foods like garlic, onion, fish, and coffee that contain sulfuric compounds or a strong natural odor can exacerbate bad breath. Alcohol consumption is also a major cause for bad breath in a number of cases.
How to Get Rid of Bad Breath with Natural Remedies
Following a good oral care routine that includes brushing the teeth at least twice a day should be a no brainer. Brushing and gargling after meals helps to dislodge and eliminate any food particles, reducing the risk of halitosis. In addition to brushing, here are some simple tips and remedies that should help.
Drink More Water
Dryness of the mouth is a pretty common cause of halitosis, as enzymes in saliva normally help in the breakdown of food and in controlling bacterial populations. Adequate water intake stimulates the salivary glands and ensures that the mouth remains adequately moist. Aside from increasing salivation through higher water intake, the action of chewing also encourages production of saliva, so it would help to eat more frequent snacks or chew on some sugar-free gum.
Young woman drinking a glass of water
In addition to drinking regular water, you can also rinse your mouth after meals with a salt water or saline solution. This can help control bad breath through the alkalizing effect of salt water, which is antithetical to bacterial overgrowth.
Cleanse Your Tongue
The idea of brushing or scraping your tongue as part of an oral care routine does seem alien and absurd to many of us because we’ve grown accustomed to simply brushing our teeth and flossing. However, tongue cleansing has been around for millennia and is in fact an important part of the Ayurvedic dinacharya or daily routine. Ayurveda has long recommended the practice as part of a hygiene routine to reduce the buildup of ama or toxins.
Girl cleaning her tongue with scraper
This ancient Ayurvedic practice is now finding more support among experts, although more research is needed for a consensus. However, some studies that appeared in the Journal of Periodontology and Odontostomatol Trop suggest that using a tongue scraper for cleansing could reduce bad breath and oral bacteria within just a week.
Sip on Some Herbal Tea
We’re often subjected to conflicting information on tea, but most nutritionists agree that when consumed in moderation, tea can offer significant health benefits. Most of these benefits are linked to the presence of flavins or polyphenols and the catechin, Epigallocatechin Gallate, in tea leaves. Researchers have found that these tea components exhibit antibacterial activity that can help to treat bad breath naturally. They also seem to have a restricting effect on the bacterial production of foul smelling compounds like hydrogen sulfide, making them some of the most effective natural remedies for bad breath.
Woman sipping on a cup of herbal tea with lemon
Spice it Up
Indian spices and herbs are highly valued the world over for the great flavor and aroma that they add to food, but they can do so much more. Although most evidence to support the use of spices in the natural treatment of halitosis is anecdotal, there’s good reason to believe that they might actually work. Spices like cardamom and clove could help to reduce bad breath because of their antibacterial properties, which are well established. Cardamom for example, contains a natural antiseptic compound called cineole, while clove is regarded as “one of the richest sources of phenolic compounds” that exhibit strong antioxidant and antimicrobial activity.
Set of Indian spices on wooden table
An ancient Ayurvedic technique, oil pulling has been used to promote oral health for millennia and it’s strongly recommended for the treatment of bad breath. The practice requires you to swish some oil around in your mouth for at least 20 minutes to draw out toxins and debris that otherwise accumulate, increasing bacterial growth and malodor. Keep in mind that this should be done on an empty stomach and Ayurveda recommends the use of specific oils like sesame, sunflower, and coconut oils.
Although not everyone agrees on the benefits of oil pulling, there is enough evidence to support its use as a bad breath remedy. A review of scientific research on oil pulling states that the practice can improve oral hygiene, reducing the occurrence of dental disease, oral cavities, and halitosis, when practiced properly and on a regular basis.
While you can be pretty certain that these oral hygiene practices and bad breath remedies will offer some relief, they require consistent long term use for significant improvement. If there is no improvement at all or if the problem continues to worsen, it is advisable that you visit a dentist as soon as possible. As we pointed out earlier, in some cases halitosis may occur as a result of some other underlying condition and timely detection and appropriate treatment can make all the difference.
- Pedrazzi, Vinícius, et al. “Tongue-Cleaning Methods: A Comparative Clinical Trial Employing a Toothbrush and a Tongue Scraper.” Journal of Periodontology, vol. 75, no. 7, 2004, pp. 1009–1012., doi:10.1902/jop.2004.75.7.1009.
- Almas, K., et al. “The Effect of Tongue Scraper on Mutans Streptococci and Lactobacilli in Patients with Caries and Periodontal Disease.” Odontostomatol Trop, vol. 28, no. 109, 28 Mar. 2005, pp. 5–10., www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16032940.
- Ben Lagha, Amel, Bruno Haas, and Daniel Grenier. “Tea Polyphenols Inhibit the Growth and Virulence Properties of Fusobacterium Nucleatum.” Scientific Reports 7 (2017): 44815. PMC. Web. 20 July 2018.
- Shanbhag, Vagish Kumar L. “Oil Pulling for Maintaining Oral Hygiene – A Review.” Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine 7.1 (2017): 106–109. PMC. Web. 20 July 2018.