We’ve all experienced the occasional embarrassment of halitosis, or bad breath. If you’ve noticed it in the morning, that’s normal. But if you experience bad breath on a regular basis, it could be something more. Sometimes it’s the result of something obvious – like a garlic-laden dinner at your favorite Italian restaurant.
There are other possible causes of halitosis that you might not be aware of. Extreme diets can contribute to the problem, particularly if they involve fasting or high-protein, low-carb diets.
Dehydration can also contribute to bad breath. Too much caffeine can dehydrate you. And keep in mind that alcohol of any kind – including some mouthwashes that contain alcohol – can make you dehydrated, which makes halitosis even worse.
But other times, bad breath can be an indicator of another problem, like bacteria and plaque build-up in the mouth, gum disease or a disturbance in the digestive tract. Even lactose intolerance or a sinus infection can be the root cause of halitosis. Braces or poorly fitting dentures can also contribute to halitosis since food particles can be easily trapped in the hardware, which results in a build-up of bacteria.
The first step in treating bad breath is to determine the cause. Your dentist can tell you if your bad breath is the result of plaque build-up or gum disease. If you think you may have a gastrointestinal problem or a sinus infection, be sure to visit your doctor to get more information. Once you understand the causes of bad breath, you can begin to fight the problem.
Your first inclination may be to reach for mouthwashes or a breath spray, but these are only temporary measures that don’t attack the real problem.
The fact is that in order to cure halitosis, you have to fight the causes of the problem – namely, the growth of bacteria.
Fortunately, there are several foods and beverages that can help:
- Fiber-rich foods: Feel like a snack? Munch on a healthy fruit or vegetable. Not only are they high in fiber, low in fat and low in calories, but they also help to reduce plaque build-up, which is one of the major causes of bad breath. Great choices include apples, carrots and celery.
- Green tea: Most of us have heard about the benefits of green tea, but here’s another one – it helps fight bad breath. Although green tea contains a small amount of caffeine (which can dehydrate you in larger amounts), it actually works well in the battle against halitosis because it helps prevent bacteria from sticking to teeth.
- Yogurt: Choose yogurts with active cultures because it’s the active culture that helps reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth. And, if possible, avoid brands with too much sugar, which can lead to plaque build-up.
- Herbs: Most of us have heard about chewing on a sprig of parsley to clean our breath after a meal, but other herbs have also been found to be very effective in fighting bad breath. Try either chewing on these fresh herbs, or soaking them in hot water to create a tea: spearmint, rosemary, coriander or eucalyptus.
- Vitamin C: Foods that are high in vitamin C also help cut down on bacteria in your mouth. Try berries, oranges and other citrus fruits, and melons.
- Cinnamon: You may think that cinnamon is just a way to mask bad breath and not get rid of the cause. But it’s been found that cinnamon actually helps decrease bacteria in your mouth. Be careful of the sugar that often comes along with cinnamon though. Try a small amount of cinnamon oil instead. Or, if you choose a cinnamon-flavored gum, be sure it’s the sugar-free variety.
- Gums and mints: Again, you may think that these choices simply mask halitosis, but it’s not true. The fact of the matter is that anything that increases saliva production helps rinse bacteria from your mouth. And gums and mints do just that. But remember to avoid those that come with heavy doses of sugar. Choose the sugarless variety instead.
You may have noticed a common element in the list of foods and drinks that help fight bad breath – they’re all healthy! And this article wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of some of the most important ways to fight bad breath:
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and very little sugar. Not only is this diet beneficial to your teeth and gums, but it also helps you maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract, both of which are key to preventing bad breath.
- Avoid all tobacco products. Smoking or chewing tobacco can result in chronic bad breath.
- Keep yourself hydrated. You should be sure to drink plenty of water on a regular basis. It not only keeps you hydrated, but it also helps to flush out your mouth.
- Practice good dental hygiene habits on a regular basis. Brush and floss twice a day, and visit your dentist for regular checkups and dental cleanings. And remember to brush your tongue as well as your teeth and gums. Bacteria can build up on the tongue, which can contribute to bad breath.
If you combine these basic, healthy lifestyle choices with the earlier tips on foods and beverages that will fight halitosis, you’re sure to avoid the embarrassment of bad breath – except for, maybe, the occasional dinner at your favorite Italian restaurant!
Robert Milton writes for Austin Dental Center, an Austin dentist who keeps their neighbors smiling with preventative care, restorative treatments, and cosmetic procedures such as teeth whitening. Visit the team at Austin Dental Center PC, 2304 Hancock Drive #1, Austin, TX 78756, Phone: (512) 454-0414.
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