How to Stop Bad Breath

Sometimes when you have bad breath you just want it to stop and you just want it to stop right now. This article will tell you about proven techniques that can stop bad breath in its tracks. These are not bad breath “cures,” but they will get you through a job interview or a date or a reunion long enough to leave a good first impression or to rekindle a sweet memory. But first it’s important to understand what causes bad breath.

The Number One Cause of Bad Breath

Lots of things can cause bad breath. Over 90% of the time, however, bad breath is caused by bacteria converting proteins in your mouth into volatile sulfur compounds.

The fact that you have bad breath bacteria does not mean you have neglected oral hygiene. While there are exceptions to almost any rule, the overwhelming majority of people who suffer halitosis brush their teeth and use mouthwash. The problem is that brushing your teeth and using mouthwash don’t always get rid of enough of bad breath bacteria to stop breath odor, although sometimes they do.

When Brushing Really Is Enough

Sometimes it really is enough to brush your teeth. The smaller the mouth, the smaller the number of bad breath bacteria in it. Children often can stop bad breath just by brushing their teeth. They don’t have to get their tongues scraped or floss their baby teeth or use mouthwash to overcome bad breath. They just need to brush.

Because brushing does the trick when we are children, we tend to think it is adequate for bad breath control when we are adults. The reason that brushing does not work when we are adults is that our mouths are larger and there are more surfaces that can harbor more bacteria. Only a little less than a third of  bad breath bacteria are found on the surfaces of the teeth. These bacteria are constantly being replaced by bacteria that live on the tongue or in the gap between the gums and the teeth, so it’s necessary to brush several times a day to keep bad breath in control. In adults, who by virtue of maturity have larger mouths, there can be so many bacteria that brushing won’t keep them in check.

When Brushing Really Isn’t Enough

If you brush your teeth three times a day and you still have bad breath, the problem may be the 70% of bacteria that are not found on the surfaces of your teeth. About 30% of all bad breath bacteria live in the gap between the teeth and the gums. About 40% of bad breath bacteria live on the tongue.

Flossing won’t get rid of bad breath bacteria on the gums. In fact, flossing into the gums can make bad breath worse. Running floss up and down into the gum can compact food particles against the gum and injure the soft tissue of the gums. Dying gum tissue decays and releases icky odors.

The way to get bad breath bacteria and the gunk of food particles that feed them out of your gums is oral irrigation. Oral irrigation is nothing other than squirting a jet of water into the space between the tooth and the gum to remove the plaque of bacteria that can coat the tooth and any food particles that could be lodged in the gum (especially after using a toothpick or dental floss in a misguided attempt to remove them).

There doesn’t have to be anything special about the water squirted under the gums to work other than that it has to rinse the gums, not the surfaces of the teeth usually cleaned by brushing. Doing oral irrigation every day with regular water will remove about 20% of plaque in a month. Doing oral irrigation with a device that “magnetizes” water will remove about 45% of plaque in a month. Either way, the effects of oral irrigation are not immediate. It will take at least two months to get rid of most of the plaque on the teeth beneath the gums, and then you’ve only tackled about 30% of the total bad breath bacteria in your mouth. But in addition to your breath feeling and smelling the way it does right after you have your teeth cleaned, oral irrigation can remove the reservoir of bad breath bacteria that keep finding their way to your teeth and tongue.

Two Overlooked Ways of Controlling Bad Breath

Even regular brushing and oral irrigation many not be enough to get bad breath into control for good. It may also be necessary to get rid of the 40% of bad breath bacteria that live on the tongue and the bad breath bacteria that lurk in the nose and throat.
Frankly, the idea of tongue scraping makes a lot of people uncomfortable, even those of us writing this article. It doesn’t have to be, well, weird. The best instrument to use to scrape the tongue is a piece of plastic of about the same consistency as an ice scraper. This scraper is strong enough to remove the gray or yellow film on the tongue made by bacteria, but not sharp enough to cut into your tongue. There are also stainless steel tongue scrapers and you can brush your tongue the same way you brush your teeth.

Either way, the objective is to remove bacteria, not healthy tongue tissue. If your tongue bleeds, you have scraped too hard, and you’ve actually made the problem worse. You only need to scrape your tongue every other day to get rid of most of the bad breath bacteria in about a month. You may be amazed by the difference.

Even when you get the bacteria in your mouth under control, you may still have a problem with bad breath bacteria in your nose and at the back of your throat. If you have post-nasal drip, or if you have had a cold, the constant flow of mucus also gives bad breath microbes a continuous feast of sulfur-containing proteins. Getting rid of this source of bad breath is best done with a neti pot.

A neti pot looks something like a tea pot with a long spout. After you lie on your side over a basin to catch the expelled fluid, place the spout gently against one nostril—don’t try to ram it in—and let the warm water you put in the pot flow out the other nostril. You may be surprised what you see come out. This isn’t something you need to every day, but you may benefit from using a neti pot two or three times a week to stop bad breath fast.


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