Halitosis, bad breath or mouth malodour are terms used to describe unpleasant odours that emanate from the mouth or nose. This is not only an embarrassing issue but also a health concern, since it may also be indicative of an underlying disease or causative condition. Thereby, it is of utmost importance to determine and treat any underlying conditions, as well as rule out bacteriological and causative agents that in the long run could lead to more severe pathological conditions in your oral as well as systemic health system. Before discussing the most effective natural home remedies for bad breath, first let’s take a look at the most common factors that are responsible for breath malodour.
Dietary factors, contrary to popular believe, are not one of the most common causes of halitosis, at least from a statistical point of view. Foods such as garlic, onion, fish, spices, acidic beverages, wine, alcohol, coffee, etc do indeed affect our breath. But these are usually only temporary effects and nothing to be worried about, as they do not usually cause a chronic problem unless consumed in excess. Chronic stomach problems such as chronic indigestion, acid reflux or IBS can cause oral malodours, although statistically, it is more likely that the main cause of the problem originates within the oral cavity, the throat or the nose.
Poor oral hygiene, dental problems, dry mouth, sino-nasal infections and bacterial overgrowth inside the tonsillar crypts are some of the leading causes of bad breath. Some of the important diseases and conditions that can often cause halitosis include periodontal infections, dental decay, salivary gland disorders, partially erupted or impacted tooth, chronic sinusitis, deviated septum, chronic fetid tonsillitis, tonsil stones and recurrent throat infections. Therefore, identifying any of these diseases (or ruling them out) is the key to start managing, treating and ultimately curing halitosis.
So what natural home remedies for bad breath can be used to alleviate or even cure halitosis? Let’s start with remedies that can only alleviate the symptoms temporarily. These natural remedies can freshen up our breath, for short periods of time, but they can’t cure a chronic problem. For example, peppermint oil, tea tree oil and mint extracts have been used for centuries to help minimise oral malodours. By virtue of their antibacterial properties, they can temporarily inhibit bacterial growth, hence have the potential to alleviate and prevent bad breath. Essential oils are very concentrated, so just put a couple drops on your toothbrush and use that to brush with. These can help counteract some of the bacterial activity in the mouth; the effects will vary from person to person and – I stress again – they will only be temporary.
Baking soda and xylitol are also natural home remedies that can be used to prevent and minimise oral malodours. Baking soda is a good natural cleanser and it is also very good at neutralising acids. On the other hand, xylitol has been shown to prevent tooth decay and the formation of plaque, as well as being an excellent oral moisturiser, increasing saliva production, which in turn helps prevent halitosis. Both xylitol and baking soda can be found in some brands of toothpaste, oral rinses, gums and mints.
Chlorophyll found in green leafy vegetables such as parsleys and spinach is another natural alternative that can help reduce the severity of halitosis. Parsley is high in chlorophyll which has a deodorizing effect. So next time they give you some parsley next to your meat or pasta, eat it! It will also help counteract the odorous effects of garlic and other spices. Other herbs and spices that function as natural breath fresheners include cloves, anise seeds, fennel and mint leaves. After having odoriferous foods, it is recommended to chew these natural breath enhancers to cover and lessen any malodours directly caused by food consumption.
Other natural herbs that are reported to help reduce halitosis are: extracts of calendula, sage, gum myrrh or sweet cicely and mint mixed in equal amounts and kept in a bottle or container, which you can carry with you in your bag so that you can use it during the day while you are away from home. Remember, all these herbs cannot cure your bad breath, only alleviate the malodours to a certain extent, until you tackle the actual root causes.
But are there any natural home remedies for bad breath that can actually cure bad breath? Not just alleviate the symptoms but treat it effectively? Well, the answer is a definite yes, but as long as these so-called remedies are not "generic" products or herbs to directly treat halitosis, but remedies that target the actual root causes of your particular type of bad breath. For instance, to treat dry mouth syndrome, you can use palliative methods at home such as natural xylitol, or something as simple as increasing the amount of fluids you take. Drink more water!
Most people should be drinking more water than they do, and a lot less of other beverages. Many cases of bad breath, especially the dreaded "morning breath" after waking up, is either caused or amplified by a dry mouth. If you drink plenty of water you can stay hydrated, and if you’re hydrated this naturally increases saliva production, which keeps your mouth from drying out. Water also helps cleanse the oral cavity and the upper digestive tract. That will help keep bad breath at bay. Avoiding alcohol, tobacco and eating some raw vegetables as snacks are will help you keep your mouth at optimal moisture levels.
Another way to cure this embarrassing condition, when it is purely caused by poor oral hygiene, is to simply your oral hygiene regime! Being meticulous and disciplined pays off in the end! The oral cavity has many areas that can harbour food remains (for months sometimes!).
These potential sites for food impaction will become bacterial nests, where decomposition and bacterial activity will lead to oral malodours and, eventually, tooth decay and a number of oral infections or conditions that will need specialist treatment.
Therefore, it is highly recommended to clean your teeth (or dentures), floss and rinse your mouth thoroughly after every meal, in order to remove all food remains and plaque from all the intra-oral surfaces, pockets, nooks and crannies. Tongue brushing and scraping is also very important in order to remove microbiota that accumulates within the small papillary projections of the tongue. The tongue has the potential to be a main source of bad breath, and failing to clean your tongue properly every day will always lead to the production of malodours. Visiting your dentist and dental hygienist every six months is also a must; this goes without saying.
Regular use of an oral irrigator can also be a very useful natural home remedy to treat halitosis that manifests as a result of periodontal disease or an impacted/partially erupted tooth (also very useful for those that wear braces). These gadgets are now recommended by most oral care professionals, because they have been shown to be extremely effective at removing plaque, minimising gingival bleeding and preventing bad breath. On the other hand, nasal irrigators can be quite effective in managing halitosis caused by post nasal drips, sinusitis, bronchitis or rhinitis for instance.
To conclude, there are many different types of natural home remedies for bad breath and it is important to emphasise that effective treatment of poor health conditions and underlying diseases is the only way to effectively cure halitosis. Using natural herbs can help alleviate the symptoms, but the effects are usually very short-lived, hence using remedies and tools at home that tackle the underlying causes of the problem directly is the only way that has the potential to cure bad breath once and for all.
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