Good oral hygiene is essential for freshness, but too much of a good thing can turn things sour. Many brands of mouthwash contain high concentrations of alcohol, which tend to dehydrate your mucous membranes. This reduces the natural cleansing and antibacterial effect of saliva, which is a boon for germs and their smelly compounds.
Solution: Be sure to brush and floss regularly to effectively control plaque and bacteria. If you must swish, opt for alcohol-free rinses with an ingredient like zinc chloride instead.
Allergy sufferers beware: those sniffles can also induce a serious case of bad breath. Excessive post-nasal drip causes inflammation in the throat, which makes it easier for bacteria to grow. Additionally, plugged sinuses often lead to mouth breathing, which dries it out the throat even more.
Solution: Turn off that leaky faucet with over-the-counter remedies like sinus rinses, antihistamines and decongestants, or see your health-care provider if they’re not working. But be aware that some antihistamines may thicken mucous and exacerbate dryness.
A 2007 study in the Journal of Dental Research had scientists sniff and rate breath samples, as well as measure volatile sulphur compounds — which put the bad in bad breath — from 88 patients. Halitosis was significantly more likely to occur in overweight and obese subjects, possibly because of poorer dietary choices and more breathing problems compared to leaner ones.
Solution: Losing weight takes willpower and sustained lifestyle changes. However, sleep apnea, which is more common in overweight snorers, can worsen breath — so see your doctor if you’re concerned you may have this condition.
Halitosis is typically at its worst when you rise and shine because of the effects of mouth breathing and minimal saliva flow during an overnight fast. On the other hand, eating breakfast is like a full-mouth scrub session, whisking away much of that midnight funk.
Solution: Make time for the most important meal of the day. Keep in mind that naturally tooth-cleansing foods like fresh fruit and nuts are known breath fresheners — but you may want to avoid the onions in your hash browns.
Ironically, worrying about your breath can make it even fouler. First, dry mouth due to activation of the “fight or flight” response is more common in anxious people. Second, tonsil stones, which show up as stinky whitish lumps, form more frequently in people with parched mouths and chronic tonsil inflammation due to stress.
Solution: Be diligent about your dental hygiene, drink water frequently and chew sugarless gum to combat dry mouth. And check out our tips for busting stress here.
Last but not least, rule out bad breath with this simple tip:
Take a plastic spoon, scrape it gently across the back of your tongue, and then take a whiff. If it smells fresh you’re in the clear!