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Bad breath is also known as halitosis. An estimated 25 to 50% of people have it, making it a common oral health concern.1 It usually isn’t harmful but can lead to social stigma and a drop in self-confidence.
Bad breath can be caused by a number of factors. Over 90% of cases begin due to issues in the oral cavity such as poor oral hygiene, unclean dentures, or bacteria on the tongue.1 However, there are other causes, including smoking, eating certain foods like onions and garlic, and not drinking enough water.
This article covers some tips on how to fix bad breath at home, when bad breath warrants a dentist visit, and which underlying conditions might be the culprit.
While there are several at-home remedies for bad breath, not all will work for everyone. Some people might have to try a few different ones before they find one that works for them.
Removing plaque from the oral cavity will help reduce bad breath. In severe cases, bad breath may require a visit to the dentist or doctor.
Here are some common remedies to try:
Practice good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Most dental professionals recommend using an alcohol-free mouthwash or rinse every time you brush your teeth. This kills germs that might cause gum disease, cavities, and bad breath.2
Flossing is an important part of a healthy oral care routine and should be done on a daily basis.3 It helps prevent harmful bacteria from accumulating, which can result in bad breath.
Floss at least once a day. This removes food particles and bacterial plaque from in between the teeth that can lead to bad breath and other dental problems.
Another common cause of bad breath is dry mouth (xerostomia), which is often the result of not drinking enough water or a side effect of certain medications.4 Drinking water can help to alleviate this problem.
Additionally, one of the most effective ways to prevent bad breath is to rinse your mouth with water after every meal.
Chew sugarless gum to help remove any food particles that get stuck on and in between your teeth. Xylitol is a natural sweetener that helps to stop plaque bacteria from sticking to the teeth.5
Chewing sugar-free gum increases saliva flow, reduces plaque buildup on teeth, and neutralizes odor-causing bacteria in the mouth.
Try gargling with salt water. Add a teaspoon of salt to a glass of warm water and gargle with it for as long as possible. This can get rid of bacteria from your mouth and fight bad breath.6
The tongue is a main culprit of bad breath. It can trap food particles, bacteria, and dead cells that can cause bad breath. This is why some people use a tongue scraper to clean their tongues.
Tongue scraping removes the bacteria and food particles on your tongue. It also stimulates blood flow to the tongue, which may get rid of trapped odors in your mouth.
Drinking green tea is a great way to freshen breath, and it has many other health benefits.7 Drinking green tea may help with tooth sensitivity, bleeding gums, or receding gums.8 It also helps reduce plaque and tartar build-up on teeth.
Apple cider vinegar is a common household item used for bad breath. Some people use it as a mouthwash, which may reduce the bacteria that cause bad breath.
Apple cider vinegar is not recommended for people with sensitive teeth or gums, or who are diabetic.
Apples are a good source of vitamin C, which can fight off mouth bacteria. They can help remove plaque from teeth, but they cannot remove it all. For a more thorough job, many dentists recommend using toothpaste with fluoride or chewing sugarless gum after eating apples.9
Parsley may also be beneficial for reducing bad breath because it contains chlorophyll, an antibacterial agent.10 Either chew on fresh parsley leaves after eating a meal or consider taking a daily dietary supplement that contains chlorophyll.
Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco products can lead to a number of health problems, such as lung cancer, tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. It can also cause bad breath, which is partially why quitting or avoiding smoking altogether is ideal.11
If you have dentures, always take them out at night and thoroughly clean them before putting them back in your mouth. If you wear dentures and have bad breath despite cleaning them daily, speak to your dentist about alternative solutions.
If home remedies don’t work, and your bad breath continues, it might be time to visit a dental professional. They’ll assess the cause and decide if you need to have more regular teeth cleanings. But in some cases, having bad breath can be a sign of a more serious condition.
Bad breath is an unpleasant condition that can be a symptom of various health conditions:
There are many reasons you may experience bad breath, but luckily you can remedy most of them at home. If bad breath persists, visit your dentist for a thorough teeth cleaning and dental exam. It could be a sign of a more serious underlying issue.