More than 80 million people suffer from chronic halitosis, or bad breath, and in most cases the odor is caused by bacteria in the mouth, the decay of food particles, and poor oral hygiene. But no matter how diligent you are in practicing good oral hygiene and watching our diet, we all occasionally suffer from an episode of bad breath.
Here are 12 natural ways to help cure the problem of bad breath:
First, the obvious ways to freshen your breath:
Brush, your teeth and tongue, twice a day, and be sure that your toothbrush is in good shape. A chewed-up, disfigured brush will miss those hard-to-reach areas. Use a soft- or medium-bristle brush; they are gentler to the surface of your teeth.
Brushing your teeth helps eradicate the plaque and bacteria on your teeth, but flossing helps dislodge anything that your toothbrush couldn’t get to. If you don’t floss regularly, the food in between your teeth will feed the bacteria in your mouth, and the more nutrients you give the bacteria, the more the bacteria will give off stinky acids that cause bad breath. Flossing also helps prevent periodontal disease — another common cause of bad breath.
Here are some lesser-known ways to naturally freshen your breath:
Drink plenty of water
When a mouth gets dry, odor-causing bacteria can thrive. Saliva contains oxygen that deters the growth of bacteria. The solution is to always drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, to keep bacteria at bay. Add some oranges, strawberries, and kiwis, that are all high in vitamin C, and you will also create an acidic environment hard for bacteria to thrive in. A powerhouse combination against stinky breath!
Use nature’s “toothbrushes”
Whenever you need a quick “brush up” but don’t have the chance to go grab your toothbrush, try snacking on any of the following foods. They not only kill bacteria, but are naturally fibrous enough to -“scrub” your teeth.
Apples: The high fiber content makes apples one of the top natural toothbrushes out there.
Celery and raw carrots: These firm and crisp these veggies “brush” your teeth and also have a high moisture content to help keep your whistle wet.
Make your own lemon ice “candies”
Our salivary glands produce 3 pints of saliva every day which (among other things) fights bacteria that causes bad breath and helps food pass through our mouth and throat. Dry mouth usually equals bad breath. To “wet your whistle” – make ice cubes with a little lemon juice added, then when frozen, break into hardy candy-sized chunks. As the ice melts it will moisten your mouth, while the citric acid in the lemon will stimulate the salivary glands.
Natural mouth rinse
Try this simple alcohol-free DIY mouthwash. Mix 1 cup of water with a teaspoon of baking soda (which changes the pH level and fights odor in the mouth) and a few drops of anti-microbial peppermint essential oil. Swish around in mouth for 30 seconds, then spit out. (Yields several rinses.)
Green and black tea
Both teas are rich in polyphenol, which is a powerful antioxidant that can stop plaque from sticking to your teeth. Plaque build-up leads to bad breath, among other dental problems. Studies have also found polyphenols inhibit the growth of bacteria in the mouth, thus minimizing the foul-smelling compounds that those bacteria produce.
Scrape your tongue
Your tongue is home to a lot of germs. These microbes feed on the dead cells that accumulate on the top of your tongue creating noxious fumes which can give you really bad breath. By scraping your tongue once a day, you can clear away this germ buffet. Brushing your tongue is not as effective, because it doesn’t actually clear the dead cells from your tongue. Make sure you get as far back on your tongue as possible.
If you have a metal or plastic spoon, use it as a tongue scraper. To scrape safely, place the spoon on the back of your tongue and drag it forward. Repeat four or five times. Scrape the sides of the tongue as well, with the same back-to-front motion.
Don’t skip meals
When you don’t eat for a long period of time, your mouth can get very dry. It becomes a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. An empty stomach from skipping meals can also cause foul breath as acids in the stomach build up.
Drink your milk
Sipping milk can effectively reduce bad breath IF you drink it before or during a meal (according to a Journal of Food Science 2010 study.) The fat in milk neutralizes sulfur while the water in milk acts as a mouth rinse. Whole milk is more effective than skim since it contains more fat.
Chew on fresh herbs
Chew a fresh sprig of parsley, basil, mint, rosemary, thyme, or cilantro. The chlorophyll in these green plants neutralizes odors. They also contain monoterpenes that travel from bloodstream to lungs and are released with your breath.
Supplement with Zinc
Another common cause of halitosis is a deficiency in the mineral zinc, which helps maintain a clean, bacteria-free mouth. Taking zinc supplements and eating more zinc-rich foods such as shellfish, lean red meat & poultry, and nuts, seeds & beans can help address the problem systemically.
Boost good gut bacteria with probiotics
A lot of mouth odor comes from way further down the gastrointestinal (GI) track, and is caused by how the bacteria that inhabit your GI track metabolize the food you send down there. So changing your bacteria can often change the odors from your mouth.
Boost your good gut bacteria by adding fermented milk products, such as live yogurt, to your diet. You can also take a probiotic supplement to help regulate the growth of troublesome bacteria.
Apple cider vinegar
Bad breath can be caused by improper digestion, and apple cider vinegar is a digestive aid. Dilute one tablespoon of ACV in a glass of water and drink before each meal, or gargle for 10 seconds after a meal.
It also contains natural antibacterial properties, which kills odor-causing bacteria in the mouth and between teeth.
If you keep up with your flossing, brushing, and the advice above, you should be odor-free!
Note: If you have bad breath all the time, despite all your efforts, it can actually be an indication of a more serious health issue. You should speak to a dentist to ensure there aren’t any other medical conditions.