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Bad breath is a bummer – there’s no way around that. From your personal relationships to your own confidence, having dragon breath makes you uncomfortable and less successful. Something as small as the state of your mouth can make a big difference to your life. So how can you make sure you’re always smelling like roses?
Of course, that’s not necessarily possible, but there are likely things you can start doing – today – to make a difference. Bad breath has many causes, and some are pretty serious. Make sure your own mouth is in healthy shape, and fresh breath will follow.
Why We Have Bad Breath
The answer to the bad breath question is a little different for everyone. A complex group of factors dictate the way your breath smells, and it can be tough to pinpoint which ones to change. That’s not to say that you can’t figure out how to make some improvements at home, but it’s also a good idea to get your dentist involved. We’ve detailed both universal tendencies and more specific breath issues below.
How Breath Turns Stinky
Even if you don’t struggle with breath problems during the day, you likely wake up in the morning with a sour taste in your mouth. Morning breath is a fairly universal issue, and it can teach us a great deal about why bad breath takes hold. Sleep creates a dangerous atmosphere for your teeth, gums, and tongue, due to:
- Slower saliva production – During the night, your body reduces saliva production because the body’s processes work differently during sleep. Saliva is absolutely crucial in making your mouth a balanced place. It dilutes acids and helps rinse away bacteria, protecting your enamel.
- Increase in bacteria – Without enough saliva, bacteria is able to grow more quickly. Oral bacteria is relatively undisturbed throughout the night, and reproduces regularly. Food particles not removed with your nighttime oral hygiene feed bacteria, and the bacteria release amino acids as they break down proteins. These acids can release sulfur, leading to less-than-ideal breath. Other acids are also smelly and damaging to the mouth.
Morning breath and chronic halitosis are two different beasts. Chronic bad breath can stem from serious health problems that require prompt treatment. It can also be related to relatively casual factors that will improve with some home adjustments. This is one reason why seeing your dentist regularly is so important – they will distinguish between the former and the latter to put your mind at ease.
A surprising number of people experience halitosis – about 25%, so don’t feel alone if you can’t seem to freshen your breath. Any of the following may contribute:
- Gum disease – The presence of additional bacteria from periodontal infections leads to a bad taste and smell in the mouth.
- Tooth decay – Decay is also accompanied by additional bacterial growth that worsens breath.
- Dry mouth – Xerostomia is a lack of sufficient saliva production, which dries out the mouth.
- Poor fit of dental appliances (night guard) or dentures
- Other infections – All of the following can intensify bad breath: pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis, diabetes, acid reflux, and some liver or kidney problems.
Problem Foods that Impact Your Breath
- Soda – The sugar and acidity within lead to the oral acids we mentioned earlier. Not to mention, soda is terrible for your body as well as your teeth – try to switch to flavored sparkling water instead!
- Candy – Just like soda, super sugary candies or other sweets feed bad bacteria in the mouth.
- Coffee – You’ve probably experienced coffee breath before. This bad taste can be due to caffeine causing dry mouth, to the lingering smell of the coffee itself, or to added sugar.
- Fragrant vegetables like raw onions or garlic – These veggies hang around in the mouth long after you’ve finished eating, reminding everyone of what you had for lunch.
- Chips and other starchy snacks – Starches are just as bad as sugars at feeding bacteria and worsening breath.
How to Build a Breath-Boosting Oral Hygiene Routine
- Floss daily – If you’re not a regular flosser, now is the time to start. Floss removes bad bacteria and food particles from areas that your toothbrush can’t reach.
- Brush your tongue – Your tongue hosts a whole lot of bacteria. Even though that may not be nice to think about, it’s important to remember when brushing. Give your tongue a good scrub to rid yourself of some bacterial colonies.
- Find effective dental products – There are so many pastes, brushes, rinses, and flosses out there – make sure yours are working for you. Ask your dentist for personal recommendations at your next dental exam.
- Drink water throughout the day – Technically not part of your oral hygiene routine, but just as important. Water hydrates your body and cleanses your mouth, and stimulates saliva production. Make it your beverage of choice – your breath and body will thank you.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash – There are many kinds of mouthwash at the drugstore – make sure you get the right one. Don’t use a rinse containing alcohol, as this can dry out your mouth and may be linked to other health problems. But an alcohol-free rinse will help keep your mouth moist and wash away bacteria and acids.