In papyrus scrolls dating back from 1550 BC, Hippocrates, the Greek physician famed as the father of medicine, offered a formula for sweet-smelling breath: rinsing with a mouthwash made of red wine, anise, and dill. Toothpaste is even older than that, with an ancient Egyptian medical text called the Ebers Papyrus containing recipes dating back some 6,000 years, while toothbrushes to apply it was only invented about 500 years ago, most likely by the Chinese, reports Dr. Harold Katz, director of the California Breath Clinics and author of The Bad Breath Bible.
Today, 93 million Americans suffer from chronically bad breath (halitosis), which can sometimes signal other health problems. If you or someone you smooch with regularly is one of them, these tactics can help restore fresh breath, according to Margaret Mitchell, DDS, and other experts.
Bad breath, or Halitosis as its formally known, stems from a variety of common sources. The following are common sources of bad breath:
- Certain food such as garlic, onions, fish, meat, cheese, etc.
- Poor general oral hygiene
- Nasal and sinus infections
- Throat infections
- Faulty dental restorations
- Periodontal disease
- Xerostomia(dry mouth)
- Other underlying health conditions
What Can I Do About it?
Knowing the causes of bad breath can help us to understand the measures we need to take to prevent it. In no particular order, here is a list of preventative measures you can take starting today to reduce the likelihood that you will have bad breath:
- Brush & Rinse (with water) After Each Meal. Some of you may think I’m crazy for suggesting this. Sure, you may have to get creative if you don’t want to be seen brushing your teeth at work, but this is one of the best ways to ensure that food particles do not get stuck in the pockets surrounding your teeth.
- Floss at Least Once Per Day. Flossing is equally important as brushing in my opinion. Just like recommendation number one above, flossing is intended to remove food particles from between the teeth. This will, in turn, create an unfavorable environment for bacteria growth. That’s exactly what we’re after.
- Brush Your Tongue. The tongue carries approximately 50% of the total bacteria in your mouth. Where there is bacteria, there’s odor. Whack this bacteria by brushing your tongue with toothpaste for at least ten strokes. The middle 1/3 of your tongue is most prone to bacteria growth so pay special attention to that area. You may also want to try Dr. Weider’s Original Tung-Gel. This is specifically formulated for cleaning the tongue and removing bacteria.
- Chew Sugarless Gum. Chewing sugarless gum can increase the flow of saliva and reduce the chances you’ll experience dry mouth-related bad breath. If gum isn’t your thing, you can also try sugarless throat lozenges to create the same effect.
- Drink Plenty of Water. This recommendation follows the same lines as the above suggestion. Drinking plenty of water reduces the occurrence of dry mouth by stimulating saliva production. Stick to water as alcohol and caffeinated drinks can lead to Xerostomia.
- Swap out Your Toothbrush Every 3-4 Months. An old toothbrush is a bacteria-riddled toothbrush. Gross, right? Bad breath or not this is a good tip to remember.
- Quit Smoking. This is easier said than done, I’m sure. However, smoking caused nicotine and tar(among other nasty chemicals) to build up on the cheek walls, tongue, and teeth surfaces. It comes as no surprise that bad breath is nearly inevitable if you smoke. However, following the above tips can minimize your risk of developing bad breath.
Norman Medina DDS, graduated from Loma Linda University Dental School in 1994. He has been practicing dentistry in Midcoast Maine since 1994. He and his wife Lanita have four children.