Some people are convinced they have bad breath when their breath is completely neutral. Others have terrible breath and don’t know it. It can be hard to smell your own breath, let alone judge its odour.
Ask someone you trust to give you an honest opinion — sometime in the middle of the day and not right after polishing off a tuna sandwich with extra onions.
If your suspicions are confirmed and your breath is problematic, don’t worry. There are many home remedies that can eliminate bad breath. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.
Origins of bad breath
Bad breath typically originates in the mouth, where bacteria are ever present. When you eat, bits of food get caught in your teeth. Bacteria grow on these bits of food, releasing foul-smelling sulfur compounds.
The most common cause of bad breath is poor dental hygiene. If you don’t brush and floss often, the bacteria in your mouth continue to grow, and a thin film of bacteria known as plaque builds up on your teeth. When plaque isn’t brushed away at least twice per day, it produces a foul odor and leads to another smelly process, tooth decay.
All foods get stuck in your teeth, but certain foods like onions and garlic more commonly lead to bad breath. Digestion of these foods releases sulfur compounds into your bloodstream. When the blood reaches your lungs, it affects your breath.
Although more than 90 percent of bad breath cases originate in the mouth, occasionally the source of the problem comes from elsewhere in the body. It may be a result of acid reflux, which leads to the partial regurgitation of foul-tasting liquid. Other possible causes include infections, diabetes complications, and renal failure.
Good dental hygiene
According to research studies, poor dental hygiene is the most common cause of bad breath. Preventing plaque buildup is the key to maintaining a healthy mouth. You should brush your teeth using a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes at least twice per day (morning and night).
Some people find that brushing after every meal is necessary to prevent decay and bad breath. To prevent bacteria from growing on bits of food stuck in your teeth, floss at least once per day.
Bacteria can also accumulate on the tongue, causing a foul smell. A practice known as tongue scraping can help you remove this thin layer of film. Using your toothbrush or a specialized tongue scraper, brush or scrape your tongue at least once per day. Learn more about why you should be brushing your tongue.
Parsley is a popular folk remedy for bad breath. Its fresh scent and high chlorophyll content suggest that it can have a deodorizing effect. Studies (not done on human breath, however) have shown that parsley can effectively combat foul sulfur compounds.
To use parsley for bad breath, chew on fresh leaves after each meal or buy a parsley dietary supplement here.
Many people believe that pineapple juice is the quickest and most effective treatment for bad breath. While there is no scientific evidence to back up this theory, anecdotal reports suggest that it works.
Drink a glass of organic pineapple juice after every meal, or chew on a pineapple slice for one to two minutes. It’s also important to remember to rinse your mouth of the sugars in fruit and fruit juice afterward.
Your mouth naturally dries out while you sleep, which is why breath is typically worse in the morning.
Prevent dry mouth by keeping your body hydrated. Drinking water (not caffeinated or sugary drinks) throughout the day will help encourage saliva production. Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day.
Yogurt contains healthy bacteria called lactobacillus. These healthy bacteria can help combat bad bacteria in various parts of your body, like your gut.
Research shows that yogurt may also help reduce bad breath. A study found after six weeks of eating yogurt, 80 percent of participants had a reduction in bad breath. Probiotics in yogurt are effective in reducing the severity of bad breath.
To use yogurt to fight bad breath, eat at least one serving per day of plain, nonfat yogurt.
Milk is a well-known cure for bad breath. Research shows that drinking milk after eating garlic can significantly improve “garlicky” breath.
To use this method, drink a glass of low- or full-fat milk during or after a meal containing strong-smelling foods like garlic and onions.
Fennel or anise seeds
Since ancient times, fennel and anise seeds have been used to freshen breath. In parts of India, roasted fennel seeds are still used as “mukhwas,” or mouth fresheners, to cleanse after-dinner breath. They taste sweet and contain aromatic essential oils that give the breath a fresh scent.
Fennel and anise seeds can be eaten plain, roasted, or coated with sugar.
Oranges not only make for a healthy dessert, but they also promote dental hygiene.
Many people have bad breath because they don’t produce enough saliva to wash away foul-smelling bacteria. Research shows that vitamin C helps increase saliva production, which can help eliminate bad breath. Oranges are rich in this vitamin.
Zinc salts, an ingredient in certain mouthwashes and chewing gum, can counteract bad breath. Zinc works to decrease the number of sulfurous compounds in your breath. Research has shown that regular rinsing with a solution containing zinc can be effective in reducing bad breath for at least 6 months.
Try a zinc chewing gum designed for people with dry mouth. You can also find zinc dietary supplements at your local drug store or purchase them online here.
Green tea is an effective home remedy for bad breath. Research shows that green tea has disinfectant and deodorizing properties that can temporarily freshen the breath. Mint has similar effects, so a cup of green mint tea may be an ideal breath freshener.
Brew two cups of tea before going to bed and refrigerate it overnight. Pour your cool tea into a water bottle and bring it to work. Slowly sip on it throughout the day. Purchase green mint tea here.
One study found that raw apples have a powerful effect against garlic breath. Certain natural compounds in apples neutralize the foul-smelling compounds in garlic. This is particularly useful for people whose garlic breath lingers, because it neutralizes the compounds in the bloodstream, rather than just deodorizing the mouth.
Homemade mouthwash with baking soda
Studies have shown that baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, can effectively kill bacteria in the mouth. Research indicates that toothpastes containing high concentrations of baking soda effectively reduce bad breath.
To make a baking soda mouthwash, add 2 teaspoons of baking soda to 1 cup of warm water. Swish the mouthwash around in your mouth for at least 30 seconds before spitting it out.
Homemade mouthwash with vinegar
Vinegar contains a natural acid called acetic acid. Bacteria don’t like to grow in acidic environments, so a vinegar mouthwash may reduce bacteria growth.
Add 2 tablespoons of white or apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of water. Gargle for at least 30 seconds before spitting it out.
When to see a doctor
Most bad breath originates in the mouth and can be treated with improved dental hygiene.
In some cases, however, bad breath is a sign of a more serious condition such as diabetic ketoacidosis, kidney failure, or an infection.
If your bad breath isn’t improving with home treatment, consult your doctor or dentist.