Halitosis, or bad breath, is a very common problem affecting many people. Studies show that somewhere between 35-45% of Americans suffer from halitosis. However, only about 20% of these cases are caused by poor oral hygiene. What are other causes of bad breath, and how can you prevent it?
Food: Certain foods are more prone to cause bad breath. Of course, garlic and onions have a reputation for this. Any food can actually cause bad breath. Halitosis is caused in part by food particles stuck in the teeth. If not removed quickly, the food will begin to rot and the odor from the food particles released into your mouth. Other foods that cause bad breath include:
- Spicy foods
- Dairy products
- Citrus fruits
- Certain sweets
Dry Mouth: Dry mouth is a lack of saliva in your mouth. Saliva helps to fight odor because it works to kill bacteria and rinse out food particles stuck between your teeth. Causes of dry mouth may include allergies/sickness or sleeping with your mouth open.
Dieting: Unfortunately, dieting can cause bad breath. When your body breaks down fat, chemicals are released that may give your breath an unpleasant smell.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to prevent/cure bad breath, no matter the cause.
Brush and Floss: The first preventive step is obvious: take care of your teeth! By brushing and flossing daily, you remove any food particles in your mouth that may lead to bad breath. Also, the minty-fresh flavor of the toothpaste not only eliminates bad breath, but replaces it with a pleasant scent. In addition, using a mouthwash or other rinse after brushing can further help prevent bad breath.
Brush Your Tongue: Most people realize the importance of brushing your teeth, but overlook the importance of brushing your tongue. Your tongue attracts just as much bacteria as your teeth, and can contribute to halitosis. Brush your tongue along with your teeth for the best prevention.
Chew Gum: Sugarless gum is a great way to freshen up your breath. The sticky surface helps remove plaque and bacteria without adding any more sugar in the process. Minty gum can add a fresh minty scent to your breath. In addition, gum that contains xylitol further helps prevent bacterial growth in the mouth.
Eat Breakfast: Eating breakfast can help prevent bad breath. “Morning breath” is sometimes associated with hunger, so be sure to eat every morning! Hard fruits, such as apples, may further ensure good breath, as they help remove plaque. Just be sure to stay away from the halitosis-causing foods listed above.
Stay Hydrated: Prevent dry mouth by drinking lots of water. In addition, water can help rinse out your mouth and remove any food particles.
For more information about halitosis and tips on how to treat it, check out our interview with bad-breath expert Dr. Katz!