Home care and treatment of bad breath

Dr. Mel Rosenberg, Dr. Alon Amit

05.09.09, 00:33

Most of us suffer from bad breath once in a while ("transient halitosis"), and about 25% of the adult population suffers from chronic halitosis at some level.
Currently, chronic halitosis is not very well understood by most physicians and dentists, so effective treatment is not always easy to find. The advised methods for treatment should be based on the common causes for bad breath, and there are a few strategies that can be suggested for home treatment:
  1. Eating a healthy breakfast: rough foods help clean the very back of the tongue, which is the main cause for halitosis.  
  2. Gently cleaning the tongue surface: It is advised to clean the tongue twice a day with a tongue brush, tongue scraper or tongue cleaner, to wipe off the bacterial biofilm, mucus and debris. An inverted teaspoon is also effective; a toothbrush should be avoided, as the bristles will grip the tongue, causing a gagging reflex. Scraping or otherwise damaging the tongue should be avoided, and so should the scraping of the V-shaped row of taste buds found at the extreme back of the tongue. Brushing a small amount of an effective antibacterial mouth rinse or tongue gel onto the tongue surface will further inhibit bacterial action.
  3. Chewing gum: Oral dryness is one of the contributing factors to bad breath - dry mouth can increase bacterial buildup and cause or worsen bad breath. Chewing sugarless gum can help increase the saliva production, and thereby help reduce bad breath. Chewing may aid particularly when the mouth is dry, or when one cannot perform oral hygiene procedures after meals (especially meals rich in protein). Chewing gum aids in provision of saliva, which washes away oral bacteria, has antibacterial properties and promotes mechanical activity which helps cleanse the mouth. Some chewing gums contain special anti-odor ingredients, such as Breathanol™. Some common folk remedies that are somewhat similar to chewing gum are chewing on fennel seeds, cinnamon sticks, mastic gum or fresh parsley. It is advised to chew gum for no longer than 4-5 minutes, and not practice that habit too often, or else some damage might be caused to the temporomandibular joint (the joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull).
  4. Gargling with an effective mouthwash right before bedtime. Several types of commercial mouthwashes have been shown to reduce malodor for hours in peer-reviewed scientific studies. Mouthwashes may contain active ingredients which are inactivated by the soap present in most toothpastes, thus it is recommended to abstain from using mouthwash directly after toothbrushing with paste.
  5. Oral hygiene: Maintaining proper hygiene, including brushing, flossing, and periodic visits to dentists and hygienists, is highly recommended. Flossing is particularly important in removing rotting food debris and bacterial plaque from between the teeth, especially at the gumline. Dentures should be properly cleaned and soaked overnight in antibacterial solution (unless otherwise advised by your dentist).
  6. Maintain water levels in the body by drinking several glasses of water a day. Oral dryness, which is a major contributor to oral malodor, can be caused by decreased body water levels.
  7. Avoiding some common risk factors: Smoking and alcohol consumption have been shown to correlate with bad breath, and should be avoided. In a recent study made at the Tel-Aviv University, a correlation between bad breath and BMI (body mass index) has also been shown. The reasons for the connection between obesity and bad breath have not been fully discovered yet, but watching your weight is always good, and is advised for other health reasons as well.
One who suffers from chronic bad breath should implement the suggested methods, while being assisted by a confidant (more on this on our article on self diagnosis of bad breath), to find out which of these helps him most.
Got more ideas for home treatment of halitosis? Share them with us on SmellWell's bad breath forum!
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                                                                                    • Home care and treatment of bad breath
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