Bad breath, or halitosis, and covering it up is an American epidemic. It’s one thing to get a late start one morning and forget to clean your teeth. But when you dutifully follow a good oral hygiene routine and still find yourself having to watch where you direct your breath, it’s tempting to toss the toothbrush and turn to bad-breath remedies you heard from so-and-so, which may cause more harm than good. That’s why today we’re sharing the top causes of bad breath, the unhealthy ways people cover it up, and how to safely eliminate it.
Many times, the cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene. When you don’t brush and floss your teeth regularly, the uneven surfaces of your teeth trap food particles, encouraging the growth of plaque, which produces a foul-smelling odor.
But it isn’t just the bacterial growth that causes bad breath; the actual food you eat can produce unpleasant odors as well. Likely culprits here are garlic, onions, and coffee. It’s also not uncommon for people with acid reflux to experience bad breath since recently consumed food and its odors can make their way back up the esophagus.
Feeling parched? Saliva is the mouth’s natural cleaning agent. When you don’t have enough of it, say because of conditions like dry mouth or a particular medication, that saliva can’t adequately buffer acidity caused by food and plaque—hence the bad breath. Gum disease, smoking, and chewing tobacco are other possible reasons for foul oral odor that lingers after brushing.
Because of how widespread halitosis has become and the lack of awareness of its causes, people have come up with some unhealthy ways of covering up bad breath. Let’s take a look at some of them:
While we don’t disagree that mouthwash can work wonders at reducing oral bacteria, most people don’t realize that mouthwashes just temporarily mask bad breath. Alcohol-based rinses can actually make the situation worse as the alcohol dries out your mouth, exacerbating the problem.
Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes is enough to freshen your breath and keep plaque at bay. But as you now know, sometimes a foul-smelling odor isn’t the result of poor oral hygiene. So if you constantly reach for your toothbrush to mask your breath, it won’t solve the underlying cause of halitosis. In fact, excessive brushing puts your mouth at risk for other oral health problems like dental abrasion, tooth sensitivity, and gum recession.
Chewing gum can increase the production of saliva that washes away harmful bacteria, but it’s far from a permanent solution unless you can spend every waking moment doing it. On top of that, some mints contain sugar, which actually feeds the bacteria.
A clean mouth is the best defense against bad breath. The longer you wait to brush and floss your teeth, the greater the odds are that your breath will offend. By brushing twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing and tongue cleaning daily, you’ll deprive the bacteria that cause bad breath of prime breeding conditions. You should also visit the dentist at least once every six months for a professional checkup, as well as tips on what changes to make to your oral routine.
If you happen to overindulge on a particularly pungent food, drinking a glass of milk might help temporarily neutralize the foul-smelling effects. Stay hydrated and eat healthy foods that require a lot of chewing, like celery and carrots, to stimulate saliva flow as well. And remember, bad breath connected to a bigger oral issue, such as gum disease or a tooth infection, will require treatment of the underlying condition to permanently get rid of the odor.
If you feel you’ve done all you can at home to prevent bad breath but are still struggling, it may be a sign of an untreated oral health problem. The only way to know for sure that it isn’t the coffee or garlic bread that’s causing your bad breath is to schedule an evaluation with your dentist. Bad breath may not be a suitable topic for casual conversation, but at My Chico Dentist, we are happy to discuss all of your oral hygiene concerns and help you find a permanent solution. Come visit us, and let’s make today the start of longer-lasting fresh breath.