Ever had that awkward moment in a party where every time you open your mouth to speak, people seem to turn slightly away? Or that inconvenient time when you have recently munched on your favorite garlic bread and cannot risk speaking in an elevator lest people wrinkle their nose at you? Bad breath or Halitosis is a common oral health condition, characterized by a continuous unpleasant odor emanating from the oral cavity or mouth. The odor is caused due to the buildup of Sulphur bacteria over a period of time in the mouth. It can be due to some underlying health condition, poor oral hygiene, a coated tongue, dental or periodontal conditions, specific foods or habits such as chewing tobacco or smoking. Bad breath is not dangerous. But it can cause severe loss of confidence and self esteem as people tend to avoid such people, leading to social discomfort.

To prevent or cure this condition, one needs to find the cause. There is no specific treatment for bad odor as causes of the odor vary from person to person. In case of a dental or underlying medical condition, one needs to visit a doctor for treatment. But, in case of superficial causes such as poor oral hygiene, there are a number of over counter pharmaceutical products available such as chewing gum, mouth rinses, and special toothpaste. But these products have a temporary masking effect. Instead, one can follow a number of simple home remedies and natural treatments.

Home remedies for bad breath

  1. Maintaining good oral hygiene – One should brush their teeth twice a day and floss regularly.  Gentle cleaning of the tongue aids in removing the bacteria deposit.
  2. Foods – Identify the foods that cause bad breath. Once identified, avoid them as much as possible. Avoid processed foods and sugars.
  3. Dry mouth – Drink plenty of fluids, especially plain water. This helps in cleansing the mouth continuously and avoids bacteria formation in the mouth. Avoid mouthwashes containing alcohol as they tend to dry out the mouth. A mouthwash containing zinc would be very useful for its anti microbial properties.
  4. Tobacco – Quit smoking and chewing tobacco.
  5. Drink tea as tea is said to contain polyphenols. Polyphenols either prevent the bacteria build up in the mouth or prevent the bacteria from producing the malodorous gases that lead to bad breath.
  6. Get a new toothbrush – Often an old toothbrush can be the cause of bad breath. In case one is using dentures or braces, they should clean them well to prevent any sulphur deposits on them.
  7. Crunchy fruits and celery are a good option to snack on as crunchy foods help to prevent bacteria from forming deposits.
  8. Stress management – Try to manage your day to day life and keep stress to a minimum as possible. Exercises, Yoga and meditation are some methods to lead a stress free life.

Natural treatments for bad breath

  1. Fennel or saunf - fennel, used since ancient times as a mouth freshener after meals has been known to contain anti microbial agents that prevent formation of bacteria.
  2. Cinnamon or dalchini – It is known to cover the odor in the mouth and decrease production of bacteria due to an essential oil, cinnamic aldehyde.
  3. Fenugreek or methi – If the extract from the seeds taken in the form of tea, it can cure respiratory ailments and odor arising from such ailments.
  4. Cloves or lavang – Known in ayurveda to have powerful antiseptic properties, it can cure bad breath if taken whole by chewing it or making an infusion with water.
  5. Parsley – Parsley is known to cool down the stomach, thus curing stomach ailments and the bad breath associated with it. It can be chewed after dipping in vinegar or making a juice out of it.
  6. Lemon juice - It can be used with warm water as a mouth rinse. It is known to cure bad breath and aid digestion, thus preventing foul stomach gases emanating through the mouth.