Suppose you conduct a “breath test” as you head to an important encounter, and you flunk. Don’t worry—the following fast fixes can help tame your bad breath.
If odour-causing bacteria seem to be fond of your gums, tongue and teeth, you’ll want to adopt some daily habits to inhibit these inhabitants. That’s when special rinses, attention to toothpaste and faithful brushing and flossing can begin making bad breath good.
Emergency measures for bad breath
- Dry mouth is a haven for the bacteria that cause bad breath. So find a tap, and swish the water around in your mouth. Water will temporarily dislodge bacteria and make your breath a bit more palatable.
- At the end of your power lunch or romantic dinner, munch the sprig of parsley that’s left on your plate. Parsley is rich in chlorophyll, a known breath deodorizer with germ-fighting qualities.
- If you can get your hands on an orange, peel and eat it. The citric acid it contains will stimulate your salivary glands and encourage the flow of breath-freshening saliva. If there are no oranges in sight, eat whatever is available, except known breath-foulers like garlic, onions or a stinky cheese. Eating encourages the flow of saliva, which helps remove the unpleasant, odour-causing material on the back of your tongue.
- Vigorously scrape your tongue over your teeth. Your tongue can become coated with bacteria that ferment proteins, producing gases that smell bad. Scraping your tongue can dislodge these bacteria so you can rinse them away.
- 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 push the spoon too far back, however; you may activate your gag reflex.
Raid the spice shelf
- Cloves are rich in eugenol, a potent antibacterial. Simply pop one into your mouth and dent it with your teeth. The pungent aromatic oil may burn slightly, so keep that spicy nub moving. Continue to bite until the essence permeates your mouth, then spit it out. Don’t use clove oil or powdered cloves; they’re too strong and can cause burns.
- Chew on fennel, dill, cardamom, or anise seeds. Anise, which tastes like black licorice, can kill the bacteria that grow on the tongue. The others can help mask the odour of halitosis.
- Suck on a stick of cinnamon. Like cloves, cinnamon is effective as an antiseptic.
Choose your breath fresheners
- The most obvious brand-name products advertised as breath-fresheners are rarely, if ever, effective in the long run. But with a therapeutic oral rinse, you can rid yourself of the compounds that are responsible for breath odour. These products are available both at your local drugstore and over the Internet.
- Use a toothpaste that contains tea-tree oil, a natural disinfectant. If you can’t find it in the pharmacy, look for it in health-food stores.
Home remedies to prevent bad breath
- Use an oral irrigator, which is a handheld device that rapidly pulses a small jet of water into your mouth, to flush out the bad bacteria, which can go deeper than a brush or floss string can reach.
- Carry a toothbrush with you and brush immediately after every meal. With prompt brushing you thwart the development of plaque, the soft, sticky film that coats the teeth and gums.
- To keep your toothbrush free of stink-triggering bacteria, store it, head down, in a lidded plastic tumbler of hydrogen peroxide. Rinse the brush well before you use it.
- If you wear dentures, it’s possible that they are absorbing the bad odours in your mouth. Always soak them overnight in an antiseptic solution, unless your dentist has advised you otherwise.
- 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.
- Some things can sour your breath even if there are no bacteria in the neighbourhood. These include cigarettes, alcohol, onions, garlic and especially strong cheeses like Camembert, Roquefort, and blue cheese. In situations where sweet breath is a must, use the commonsense approach—just say no.
- Ask your doctor if a medication could be fouling the air you expel. Any drug that dries out your mouth, thereby depriving it of saliva, is suspect. These include over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, diet pills, and prescription medications for depression and high blood pressure.