All right, let’s collectively leave the judgment at the door here, because we’re all guilty of stinky breath from time to time. Whether the cause is your diet, good old morning time, or overall dental hygiene, bad breath is just something that happens—and more often than you would like. So let’s start with the basics. See your dentist at least twice a year (depending on your oral condition) for cleanings, and while you’re there, don’t hesitate to bring up your concerns if you’ve tried everything and your bad breath still isn’t going away.
Brush and floss every single day. Brushing your teeth helps nix the plaque and bacteria on the front, back, and the chewing surface, but flossing dislodges anything your toothbrush can’t get to between the teeth. If you don’t floss, here’s what will happen: the minerals in saliva (like calcium and phosphates) can cause the plaque to harden between the teeth (aka tartar). Tartar is full of bacteria. The bacteria colonies can multiply and burrow deeper into your gum. Over time, the tissue around the bone gets irritated, causing inflammation. Your gums start to break down, resulting in bleeding gums when you brush your teeth. If it progresses, the space between the gums and teeth grows. Basically, anaerobic bacteria are the culprit behind gum disease and bad breath. So brush and floss, or bad breath will be the least of your concerns.
One main source of bad breath is a type of oxygen-hating bacteria in your mouth called anaerobic bacteria. Since they don’t like fresh air, they nestle deeper into your mouth’s surfaces, causing inflammation and bleeding of the gums, which, in turn, creates a stinky, sulphuric byproduct. For this, it would be best to use a tongue scraper to remove the bacteria burrowed in the fuzzy filaments of your tongue, or try using a clean spoon instead. Since anaerobic bacteria hate oxygen, try gargling with an oxygenated mouthwash to kill them fast, even in hard-to-reach places like your tonsils. Yes, anaerobic bacteria tend to accumulate in the contours of your tonsils and create super-pungent tonsil stones (a buildup of bacteria and debris in your tonsils). For this try gargling in the back of your throat with salt water to dislodge the stones or seeing your ENT doctor to remove them. Drink more water. Dehydration reduces your saliva production, which is a problem because your saliva has antibacterial and antifungal properties that keep your mouth healthy and your breath smelling good. On a basic level, your saliva also helps break down your food, wash it away, and lubricate your teeth to prevent food being stuck. If the food is decomposing in your mouth because it was not broken down or washed out, bacteria can flourish. The more food you leave behind, the more feasting for the bacteria. While we are on the topic of dehydration, get rid of all your alcohol-based rinses because ironically enough, your mouthwash could be your problem. Alcohol dries out your mouth, which leads to more bacteria growth; you can create your own by mixing a tablespoon of baking soda with a cup of warm water and a few drops of peppermint essential oil. Baking soda is a natural antibacterial, and the peppermint oil helps freshen your breath in a pinch if you run out of mouthwash.
Now on to what to eat to stay fresh. If you’re already out on the town, order a drink with mint leaves or casually ask your server for a side of parsley. The mint will help freshen your breath, and the parsley contains chlorophyll, which fights against the sulfur compounds in the mouth. Eat probiotic-fermented foods like kimchi, to increase the good bacteria in your gut (the large and small intestines and the stomach). In addition, when good bacteria thrive, there is less room for the bad bacteria, which can give off a not-so-pleasant smell that travels up the digestive tract and into your mouth. The hard texture of apples, celery, carrots, etc., can remove food caught between your teeth and rub away the bacteria that’s clinging to them. Think of crunchy health foods as nature’s toothbrushes. Finally chew sugarless gum containing xylitol. Gum contributes to better breath for a few reasons: first, the act of chewing stimulates the flow of saliva, which, remember, helps flush away bacteria. Second, it helps pick up food that has been left behind. And third, xylitol, a sweetener, is an antibacterial. Try gums with xylitol, or if you are not a gum fan, try mints with xylitol.
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