It is an extremely common problem to have bad breath and we've all experienced it at some point in our lives. It could be from eating onions and garlic or something else in our diet. The good news is once you floss and brush your teeth, the stink is usually gone the next morning after you brush your teeth once more. If you have chronic bad breath that is not resolved by flossing and brushing, then something else is going on and it's worth looking into if not for you, but for everyone around you! (Hint, hint)
Let's first review the causes of bad breath and then 4 ways to fight bad breath.
Note: I'm obviously not a dentist so do not take this as medical advice. As always, do your own research and continue to be curious.
Causes of Bad Breath
Bad breath can arise from many sources in the body but the majority can be blamed on the type of microorganisms that reside in your mouth. After all, you have around 700 different species of bacteria hanging out there and it's your second largest microbiome next to the gut microbiome. There are also viruses, fungi and protozoa in your mouth - it's like a whole zoo in there! Just like your armpit stink, smelly breath is often a result of smell-causing bacteria building up.
Does this mean you should eradicate all the microorganisms to have fresh breath? Of course not. Good bacteria and less desirable bacteria live in a symbiotic relationship. It's when certain habits fall to the wayside (you know, like flossing) or carpet-bombing your oral microbiome with a mouthwash that kills too many species of bacteria, but more on that in a bit.
It can also be caused by saliva with a pH above neutral. Bad breath is more common in the elderly, as well as those with unhygienic mouths, gingivitis, and periodontitis, but bad breath can also be found in some individuals who have an otherwise healthy mouth.
It goes without saying that good dental hygiene is paramount to avoid bad breath (brushing twice in a 24-hour period) and going to the dentist regularly (every 6 months).
4 Ways to Fight Bad Breath Naturally
1. Avoid Using Conventional Mouthwashes
Mouthwashes contain ingredients meant to kill bacteria, however, they don't do a good job at differentiating desirable bacteria from stink-causing bacteria. In fact, after only 30-second exposure to conventional mouthwashes like Listerine and most bacteria are killed.
It's important to note that the bacteria in your mouth are an important part of your immune system. The oral microbiome controls the intake and initial interaction of what would become the gut microbiota, it's your body's first line of defence.
While conventional mouthwashes do contain some excellent essential oils for fresh breath, they often contain a whole cocktail of other ingredients from alcohol, to preservatives, food colouring and more. Yes, you can get alcohol-free mouthwash but it is used to disperse the essential oils so when it's removed, companies often add propylene glycol instead - and this is one to avoid.
Have you ever noticed those with bad breath are often the people who use products like Listerine? It is likely making the problem worse in the long run by carpet-bombing the microbiome.
Solution: Avoid mouthwashes that claim to be "antiseptic" or "antibacterial". If you must use mouthwash, this tea tree oil based mouthwash is a much better option. You'll likely find it at your local health food store.
2. Always Floss Before Brushing Your Teeth
I only learned this as an adult. I spent a chunk of my life flossing after brushing! The problem is that any food debris, bacteria or plaque released by flossing will stay in your mouth until the next time you brush - gross! It makes good sense to floss before brushing because you create more space between your teeth and release any food particles stuck in your gums. This means your toothbrush can get into every nook and cranny and clean your teeth effectively.
Solution: Floss before you brush your teeth. Be sure to avoid plastic floss. Look for silk dental floss. Choose a brand that sources the silk ethically and sustainably.
3. Try Clove Oil on Your Toothbrush
Clove essential oil has been used for centuries for a variety of ailments. It has a strong, spicy smell and taste due to the presence of a variety of phytonutrients it has many wonderful benefits.
Due to the presence of a phytonutrient called carvacrol clove oil is a natural anti-fungal and can help eliminate oral thrush. It is also a natural antimicrobial and biofilm buster. Biofilm builds up on teeth leading to things like bad breath and plaque. Another great oral benefit is that of all the plant oils clove oil has been found to be the most effective at preventing cavities which makes it a much safer option than fluoride.
Solution: Add 1 drop of clove essential oil to your toothbrush and then layer your toothpaste on top. For bad breath, do this once per day for a few weeks.
4. Support Your Gut Health
It has been well established that your diet has a profound influence on your gut microbiome. More specifically, the species of bacteria that hang out in your digestive system. These bacteria influence the smell your body gives off and mounting evidence is showing this to be the case which impacts your breath. It's all connected!
GERD a common digestive problem is another contributor to bad breath because this condition leads to substances such as bile, undigested food and enzymes from your stomach rising up through your esophagus which can result in a foul smell in your mouth
Support your gut health by choosing a whole-foods based diet to help the good bacteria thrive and starve out the less desirable microbes and fungi.
Solution: A good tip to remember when you eat is that you aren't just feeding yourself, you are feeding the billions of microorganisms that live in your gut microbiome and your oral microbiome. Choose whole-foods, colourful fruits and veggies, healthy fats, high quality protein and limit sugar, bad fats and refined carbs.
I hope this information helps you have fresh breath!