Hallitosis, or bad breath, is something with which many people struggle. It can be embarrassing and uncomfortable to worry about constantly. There are multiple causes to bad breath but most cases stem back to odor-causing bacteria in the mouth. Multiple actions can be taken to reduce the number of these bacteria and lead to fresher breath.

Certain bacteria and the odors they produce are the main culprit of bad breath. Bacteria on teeth are easily cleaned away with toothbrushing, but the ones that are often missed and cause persistent bad breath are those underneath the gumline or stuck in the crevices of the tongue. These are areas that a regular toothbrush sometimes does not reach. Using an electric toothbrush instead of a manual can help remove bacteria underneath the gums more effectively. The vibration of the brush helps lift the bacteria from just below the gum line; however, flossing is also very important. Gum pockets between the teeth are a great hiding place for bacteria that can only be effectively removed by floss. Possibly the most important, and most often missed step, is cleaning the tongue. There are many deep grooves and papilla that are difficult to clean with just a toothbrush. A tongue scraper is often absent from many peoples’ oral hygiene routine, but it is the best tool to do a deeper cleansing. This is probably the most important tool to add for someone struggling with bad breath. A mouthwash can also be effective, along with the other tools mentioned.

Besides focusing on cleaning the mouth, other strategies can help in eliminating bad breath, such as drinking plenty of water. Being well hydrated keeps salivary flow up, which keeps odor-causing bacteria down. It is recommended to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to keep yourself well hydrated. Also avoid drinks that may cause dehydration such as coffee and alcohol. Besides water, other drinks have shown to have some positive effect in fighting bad breath. Green tea and aloe vera help bring down bacteria numbers. Odor-causing foods like garlic and onions should also be avoided, because they can produce smells that originate from the stomach instead of the mouth and are harder to eliminate.

Bad breath can also result from mineral imbalances in the body. Specifically, zinc deficiency has shown to have some effect. Zinc can aid in neutralizing bacteria in the mouth. Lacking enough Zinc in your diet may contribute to malodor. Meats, nuts, and beans are all foods that are high in Zinc. A supplement or vitamin containing Zinc also may be considered.

If bad breath remains a problem after trying everything else, visiting your doctor for a checkup is a good idea. Some conditions such as diabetes or esophageal reflux can be related to bad breath, and your doctor can help you determine if this is the case. In the end, bad breath can have many causes, but by examining the origin and improving home care, most cases can be eliminated, leading to fresh breath and a healthy mouth.

Dr. Nick is with Palm Desert Smiles and can be reached at (760) 568.3602.

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