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The Best Ways To Get Rid Of Bad Breath

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is an uncomfortable condition you don't want to be caught with. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, bad breath happens when you have a foul odor coming from your mouth that is noticeable to others as you breathe or speak. It can lead to embarrassment and anxiety about social situations when you know your breath is not as fresh as it could be.

If you suffer from the unsavory symptoms of halitosis, you're not alone. It turns out that about one in four people experience bad breath regularly, according to Cleveland Clinic. While the causes of bad breath and the severity of the condition can vary from person to person, it is typically a result of bacteria buildup in the mouth. Tooth decay, gum disease, and overindulgence in acidic foods are examples of why bacteria may start to accumulate and cause bad breath.

There are countless products on the market that claim to treat bad breath. However, there are also things you can do and avoid to help freshen your breath. Finding the right balance between helpful products and lifestyle changes that work for you is key to getting rid of your bad breath for good. Here are some bad breath tips to consider.

Brush and floss every day

Because poor oral hygiene can create the ideal environment for bad breath bacteria to grow, it's vital that you brush and floss your teeth every day. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing between your teeth once a day to clean out bacteria, plaque, and lingering food particles that can be harmful to your oral health.

The proper brushing technique, as described by the ADA, is to hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums. Then, move the toothbrush in a gentle back-and-forth motion in small strokes over all the surfaces of your teeth. You should also use quality oral care products, like a toothbrush with soft bristles that is the right shape and size for your mouth.

Done with brushing? Not so fast! While brushing removes a ton of odor-causing bacteria, there are still areas between the teeth your toothbrush can't reach where bacteria can build up. Take another minute to floss with string dental floss or a water flosser to get rid of all those pesky germs that can lead to bad breath.

Use mouthwash

Another step you should add to your dental care routine is rinsing with mouthwash. Most oral rinse products contain ingredients that will kill bacteria and germs in the mouth, which can help prevent bad breath. However, it's important to find the right mouthwash for your needs. Some mouthwash brands use different ingredients, such as alcohol, fluoride, or antiseptic chemicals that may be harsh for those with sensitive mouths. Ask your dentist for recommendations on what to use to combat your bad breath.

According to Healthline, the right way to use mouthwash is to brush and floss your teeth first. Follow the directions provided by the mouthwash manufacturer, which usually involves measuring the amount of mouthwash you use with the lid provided. Swish the oral rinse around your mouth while taking care not to swallow any. Finish by gargling the mouthwash for 30 seconds before spitting it out into the sink.

Using mouthwash consistently as part of your at-home oral hygiene routine can definitely help you stay on top of bad breath. But you can also use it to nix odors after a big meal or a cup of coffee, or if you simply need a quick fix and you're not able to brush and floss right away. Just keep in mind that mouthwash should never replace daily brushing and flossing as a means of keeping your teeth clean and healthy.

Chew sugar-free gum

Bad breath doesn't always happen at the most convenient times. You might be out with friends, on a date, or getting ready to head into a meeting when you notice your breath needs a pick-me-up. When this happens, reaching for a stick of sugar-free gum might be the easiest way to give your breath a little refresher when brushing is out of the question.

Because diets that are high in sugar can cause bad breath, go for chewing gum that doesn't contain any sugar if you want to improve symptoms of halitosis. Healthline explains that bacteria in the mouth actually feed off sugar, so a sugar-packed stick of gum can make your breath worse after the initial flavor wears off.

Many sugar-free gums are made with natural sweeteners or sugar substitutes that don't promote bacteria growth like sugar can. One popular ingredient in sugar-free gum is xylitol, which has been shown to reduce the risk of developing cavities and plaque buildup on the teeth, according to WebMD. Just one more reason to keep some sugar-free gum in your purse or pocket — just in case!

Drink more water

As if you needed more reasons to drink water, there's yet another benefit to staying hydrated. In addition to fueling your cells, improving skin health, boosting energy levels, and supporting a healthy digestive system, drinking plenty of water a day may help if you're struggling with bad breath.

As shared by WebMD, getting enough water is essential to form saliva and keep the mouth moisturized. When your mouth becomes dry, the oral environment becomes more acidic, which tends to promote bacterial growth. Also, saliva helps to wash away food particles, dead cells, and germs that can linger in the mouth. When you don't have enough saliva, it creates a breeding ground for bacteria that cause offensive bad breath odors.

On top of that, drinking water is an easy way to rinse out the mouth after eating a meal or just waking up. In fact, a recent study published in the "International Journal of Dental Hygiene" found that drinking a glass of water removed about 60% of the harmful substances that can contribute to bad breath (via Wiley Online Library).

Quit smoking

Smoking is incredibly harmful to your health in more ways than one. Not only does it increase your risk of lung and heart disease, but it can also take a toll on your oral health. According to WebMD, the top dental problem caused by smoking or using tobacco products is bad breath. It's likely that you'll also experience discoloration of your teeth, an increased buildup of dental plaque, gum disease, slower healing after dental procedures, and tooth loss. You also increase your chances of developing oral cancer when you smoke.

Research published in "Toxicology Reports" confirms that current smokers are much more likely to experience halitosis (via ScienceDirect). Also, people who did smoke but do not smoke anymore still had a higher risk of developing bad breath when compared to those who never smoked. The article goes on to explain that cigarette smoke contains several harmful toxins that change the environmental balance in the mouth, which can be one of the reasons behind a smoker's bad breath.

Interestingly, "Toxicology Reports" also shared that many smokers who had the typical "stale smoke" oral odor were less likely to report that they had bad breath because they became accustomed to the smell. In other words, you may have bad breath and not even know it if you're a smoker. If nothing else, that's a good reason to kick your smoking habit to the curb.

Get bi-annual teeth cleanings

No matter how particular you are about your oral hygiene at home, it's still essential to see your dentist regularly for a thorough teeth cleaning. A dental professional has the experience, skills, and dental instruments needed to remove hardened plaque, tartar, and bacteria that develop between the teeth and just under the gums. A dental hygienist also has a much better vantage point to see inside your mouth and spot problem areas you may have missed.

When plaque builds up on your teeth, it will start to destroy tooth enamel and cause tooth decay and gum disease, which often come with bad breath (per Cleveland Clinic). Removing plaque from the teeth will help prevent bad breath and other dental health issues that may require extensive treatment. A professional teeth cleaning involves removing hard tartar and plaque from the teeth. Your dentist will also use special tools to clean between the teeth and places that are hard to reach. Then, your teeth are polished with gritty toothpaste that brightens your smile.

Healthline shares that most dentists recommend getting your teeth cleaned every six months. However, you may need more frequent cleanings if you're experiencing dental problems or are struggling with chronic halitosis. Talk to your dentist to see what they recommend and make sure you stick to that schedule to keep bad breath in check.

Try a tongue scraper

When you're worried about bad breath, brushing and flossing your teeth is essential to fighting off those offensive odors. However, there's another crucial piece to the oral hygiene puzzle. Your tongue can potentially carry bacteria and plaque just like your teeth and gums. Cleaning your tongue using a tongue scraper can help remove these harmful substances that may be contributing to your bad breath.

Tongue scrapers are inexpensive dental tools that you run over your tongue to remove germs and other particles that may cause bad odors. Healthline also adds that scraping can improve your sense of taste and remove that unsightly white film that can sometimes develop on the tongue.

Despite what you may infer from its name, tongue scraping is a quick and painless process. You simply open your mouth, stick out your tongue, and run the edge of the tongue scraper from the back of your tongue to the front in one slow and steady motion. You may have to repeat this process two or three times until the entire surface of your tongue has been cleaned. This will help to remove odor-causing bacteria and keep your mouth fresh and clean.

Make adjustments to your diet

It's well-known that some foods are better for your overall health than others. The same goes for your oral health. Certain foods can contribute to bad breath by promoting bacteria growth and plaque buildup. Other foods and beverages contain sulfuric compounds that can temporarily linger and cause bad breath.

For example, garlic and onions, which are known for their aromatic and bold flavors, will tend to create odors in your mouth that can last for hours. It definitely helps to drink water, brush your teeth, and rinse with mouthwash after eating these potent foods. You may also want to pop some sugar-free gum in your mouth to mask the scent. Fortunately, the effects of these foods will also wear off with time.

Food and drinks that are particularly acidic contribute to bad breath in a different way. When you consume things like coffee, soda, dairy, alcohol, and sugar, it changes the pH balance of your mouth by making it more acidic, according to WebMD. Because odor-causing bacteria tend to thrive in these environments, it's a good idea to skip these foods and beverages if you want to avoid bad breath.

Look for dental products containing zinc

While fluoride tends to steal the spotlight when it comes to oral health, zinc is another beneficial mineral that can support a strong and healthy smile. According to Healthline, zinc is essential for maintaining healthy gums by reducing inflammation and lowering the risk of developing gum disease. Gum disease and bad breath often go hand-in-hand. In fact, chronic bad breath is often one of the first warning signs that something is not quite right with your gums, as explained by MouthHealthy.

Also, a study published in the "Journal of Applied Oral Science" found a connection between zinc and the reduction of bad breath (via Scielo Brazil). It turns out that zinc helps to suppress the growth of several strains of bacteria in the mouth that cause foul-smelling breath. With the research behind zinc and its countering effects on bad breath, it might be worth it to look into dental toothpaste, mouthwash, and other products that contain zinc to help fight off those offensive odors.

Switch out your toothbrush regularly

There's no debate that brushing your teeth twice a day and using other oral hygiene techniques will help remove harmful bacteria that causes plaque, gum disease, and bad breath. However, it's also important to focus on the tools you're using to keep your mouth clean. Throwing away your old toothbrush and replacing it with a new one is essential if you want to keep your oral health on track and bad breath at bay.

For the most part, dentists recommend switching out your toothbrush every three months, but that timeframe can vary depending on the person. According to a CNBC Make It article, Dr. Michelle Kelman, a lecturer at the UCLA School of Dentistry, says "When in doubt, you need to look at the bristles." She adds, "If the bristles are frayed, it's time for a new toothbrush."

When a toothbrush is old and overused, it becomes much less effective at removing food particles and bacteria from your teeth. When these harmful substances are left in the mouth, you can develop bad breath and other dental issues, including tooth decay and gum disease. Also, the bristles on the toothbrush itself may start to grow germs that can be counterintuitive to keeping a clean mouth and fresh breath.

Keep braces or clear aligners clean

One unfortunate yet common occurrence that happens when going through orthodontic treatment is bad breath. While it's not your braces or aligner trays that smell bad, the bacteria and food that become trapped in or under the hardware can cause bad odors that leave you feeling self-conscious.

The best way to combat bad breath if you have braces or wear clear aligners is to thoroughly clean them using the right techniques and products. For example, the American Association of Orthodontists recommends that people with braces brush their teeth after snacks or meals for at least two minutes and schedule professional teeth cleaning every four months. Likewise, Healthline shares that Invisalign wearers should gently brush their aligners every night with a soft toothbrush and clear liquid soap before reinserting them.

If you're still having issues with bad breath and keeping your braces, dental aligners, or retainers clean, it may be time to ask your dentist or orthodontist about cleaning accessories that can help. There are floss threaders, ortho picks, and special types of floss available to help those with braces clean in all the hard-to-reach places. You can also purchase antiseptic soaks and sterilizing trays for your aligners.

Use a humidifier at night

If you live in a dry area and often deal with bad breath, there may be a connection. As shared by Medical News Today, spending a lot of time in dry air can lead to a dry mouth or cause dry mouth symptoms to become worse. When your mouth is dry, it means you don't have enough saliva to neutralize harmful bacteria or wash away tiny pieces of food that may have become lodged between teeth. All of this creates a favorable environment for odor-causing bacteria to grow in the mouth.

One way to combat the dry air and its effects on your mouth is to use a humidifier at night. A humidifier adds moisture to the air while you sleep, so you can rehydrate your airways, including your mouth. If that's not enough reason to run out and buy a humidifier, you'll also enjoy other benefits when you keep the air in your bedroom moist. Sleeping near a humidifier means your skin and lips may be softer, brighter, and more supple in the morning.

Drink green tea

If you're looking for a natural way to improve ongoing bad breath, it's been shown that green tea can definitely help. Colgate shares that the polyphenols found in green tea work to reduce the sulfuric elements in the mouth and fight off odor-causing bacteria that cause bad breath. Also, green tea has natural disinfectant and deodorant properties that effectively fight off halitosis, according to an article published in the "Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology" (via J-Stage)

However, it's important to skip the sugary versions of this antioxidant-rich beverage. Adding sugar or drinking green tea that is already loaded with high fructose corn syrup can actually have the opposite effect that you want on bad breath. Sugar feeds the bacteria in your mouth that cause bad breath. Also, sugar can make your mouth more acidic, which can promote more bacteria growth.

Your best bet is to brew your own green tea or only purchase green tea beverages that are sugar-free if you want to get the most oral health benefits. Moreover, the antioxidants in green tea can improve other aspects of your health, including brain function and metabolism, and lower your risk of diabetes and some cancers (via Healthline).

Find the reasons behind your bad breath

Finding the right treatment for your halitosis really depends on the real reason you have bad breath in the first place. Understanding what's behind the issue will help you find the best way to stop those foul oral odors from coming back.

Gum disease is one of the most common reasons people struggle with bad breath. Poor oral hygiene, including not brushing and flossing regularly, can lead to an unhealthy buildup of bacteria and plaque. This can eventually lead to gingivitis and periodontitis as the gums become irritated and inflamed. If you suspect you have gum disease and it could be causing your bad breath, it's time to make an appointment with your dentist.

If dry mouth is the culprit behind your bad breath, you're just one of the many people who deal with this condition. Cleveland Clinic notes that as many as one in five people deal with dry mouth. However, some people are more prone to dry mouth, including older adults and those who take medications that can cause dry mouth as a side effect. Talk to your dentist to see if there are ways to improve your bad breath by treating dry mouth.