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Bad Breath: Beyond Mouthwash

Bad Breath:
Beyond Mouthwash

*DISCLAIMER* All information is provided for educational purposes only. No drugs or supplements should be taken without prior advice from your health professional.


Cover your bases
Get into a scrape
Wet your whistle
Chew on this
Spice it up
When it won't go away


What could be more embarrassing? Maybe your friends have given you some not-so-subtle hints—like leaning back suddenly when you lean in to the conversation. Or maybe you have no reason to think your breath is bad, but you're always worried about it anyway. Breathe easy! Here are some simple (and natural) suggestions for keeping your breath sweet. back to top

Cover your bases
Okay, let's get one thing straight: No natural remedy will benefit your breath if you don't take care of your teeth. You know the drill: brush at least two times a day, floss every night, get your teeth cleaned professionally twice a year, and don't overdo it with the commercial mouthwash—it contains alcohol that dries out your mouth and makes it more likely that odor-causing bacteria will grow there. back to top

Get into a scrape
Did you know that one of the main causes of breath odor is bacteria that grow inside the crannies of your tongue—especially on the back part of your tongue? (Yes, we know it's gross.) For this reason, experts recommend brushing your tongue as well as your teeth—a practice that literally makes some people gag. One solution is to use a tongue scraper (no, it's not a torture device). There are a variety of inexpensive tongue scrapers on the market now. Some of them look like fancy plastic spoons, and some are more like a curved wire with handles. Many people find that using a tongue scraper on the back part of their tongue doesn't cause a gag reflex the way a toothbrush does. You should be able to find tongue scrapers in a drugstore, health-food store, or through a mail-order company on the Internet. back to top

Wet your whistle
Another way to help keep odor-causing bacteria at bay is to make sure your mouth stays moist, since it's harder for bacteria to grow in the presence of saliva. (That's why "morning mouth" is such a drag: your mouth has dried out overnight, and the bad-breath germs take over.) One way to keep the juices flowing throughout the day is to munch on orange slices or celery sticks. It's also a good idea to drink lots of water—at least six to eight glasses a day. back to top

Chew on this
Okay, now look around your kitchen. Chances are there are some natural breath-fresheners hidden there. Give up? Here are two:
  • Parsley. This familiar herb does more than look pretty on your plate. It contains chlorophyll—an ingredient used in some over-the-counter breath fresheners—and has been used for banishing bad breath since ancient times. So when you're done wolfing down those garlicky mashed potatoes, it might be a good idea to reach for the parsley garnish. Just take a few sprigs and chew on them slowly, one sprig at a time.
  • Peppermint. The tradition of handing out after-dinner mints has a basis in folk medicine. Peppermint contains menthol, a strong-scented oil used in many toothpastes and mouthwashes that has long been used to fight germs and freshen breath. Fresh peppermint is especially useful for chasing away odors caused by eating garlic and onion, since the mint's active ingredients travel down into your bloodstream. You can often find fresh peppermint in the produce section of supermarkets: just break off a few leaves and chew on them slowly. But if you don't have any of the fresh herb around (such as when you're eating out), sipping on peppermint tea after a meal may do the trick. back to top
Spice it up
Have you ever gone to an Indian restaurant and noticed that there is a small bowl full of seeds by the door on your way out? Chances are those were fennel, an ancient spice that has long been used to aid digestion and sweeten people's breath. Another Indian spice used for freshening breath after meals is cardamom. If you're adventurous, you could try passing around some spicy seeds to nibble on as an exotic alternative to shaking out a handful of commercial breath-fresheners. Fennel seeds and cardamom seeds may be found in Indian markets and some health-food stores, as well as by mail order on the Internet. Make sure you ask for the whole form of the seed or pod (not the crushed form). In the case of cardamom, ask for the green variety, not the white. back to top

When it won't go away
Okay, so you know you're doing everything right, but your breath is still bothering you. It may be time to talk to your dentist or your health professional. You may have tooth decay that needs fixing. Or it may be something as simple as post-nasal drip—when liquid from your sinuses drips down to the back of your throat and causes breath odor. Your health professional can help you figure out what the deal is and steer you to the right solution. back to top

 
 
 
Last Modified Date: 3/28/2001