Bad breath, explained (and how to fix it)


I’ve brushed, flossed and swooshed with mouthwash. Got on my Sunday best. Clean clothes-check. Shiny shoes-check. Ready for that business meeting or exciting new date.

STOP! Hold everything… I wonder, “Do I have bad breath?”

Blowing into your own hand won’t tell you-our bodies get used to our own odors. But eventually, someone will notice you’ve got bad breath. A friend may not say something to you, but if they step away from you when you begin to speak, it’s a clue and something you shouldn’t ignore. There might be important medical or dental issues to address.

What is Bad Breath?

Bad breath is also known as halitosis. The unpleasant odor comes from Volatile Sulfur compounds (VSC) produced as waste products by gram (-) anaerobic bacteria lurking in your mouth.  These bacteria don’t like oxygen, so they thrive in the hidden recesses such as below the gums and on the taste buds of the tongue, where there is little oxygen.  As these bacteria proliferate and the concentration of VSC’s rises, other people will begin to notice you have bad breath.

What are the causes?

Medical reasons for halitosis include:

1.       Chronic Sinusitis 2.       Lung Diseases
3.       Acid reflux 4.       Kidney disease
5.       Post nasal drip 6.       Cancer
7.       Chronic allergies 8.       Liver disease
9.       Diabetes 10.   Gallbladder dysfunction
11.   Depression 12.   Thyroid disorder
13.   Tonsillar infections 14.   Autoimmune-Sjögren’s Syndrome
15.   Tonsillar Stones 16.   Stomach-H.Pylori infection

Dental Reasons:

1.       Dental decay 2.       Dry mouth (medications, dysfunction of salivary glands, mouth breathing)
3.       Periodontitis (inflammation of gum and bone tissues) 4.       Overgrowth of Gram (-) anaerobic bacteria or yeast infections in the mouth
5.       Oral infections 6.       Improperly fitting dentures
7.       Oral cancer

Lifestyle Reasons

  1. Smoking or chewing tobacco
  2. Diet (garlic, spicy foods, onions
  3. Alcohol
  4. Stress


Oral products not working?

You may have tried mouthwash, rinses, sprays, various kinds of toothpaste- all to no avail or only with temporary relief. Lately, science has suggested a much more effective approach to beat bad breath.

Keep the bacteria in your mouth at bay

You’ve heard about probiotics-we often discuss it on GRWellness. Probiotics are good bacteria to fight bad bacteria. They help with digestion and things going very smoothly in terms of our bowels. But how can probiotics treat bad breath?

Probiotic strains that fight bad breath

Studies have shown that certain Probiotic strains have great potential treating halitosis by nurturing more helpful bacteria in the oral cavity. Strains such as Streptococcus salivarius (K12), Lactobacillus salivarius and Weissella cibaria can decrease undesirable bacteria and improve periodontal disease. According to the International Journal of Oral Science (2012), Weissella cibaria possess the ability to inhibit VSC production and shows potential as a novel probiotic for the oral cavity.


Before you begin

You won’t find probiotics for oral health in the yogurt aisle. Look instead for a chewable tablet with the species included online or at your local health food store.

Where can I learn more about probiotic species? Check out our Cliff Notes version on Probiotics here.

If you choose to get your probiotics from a supplement, keep in mind that probiotic supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The research behind them is also in the early stages.

Prevention tips:

  1. Brush and floss your teeth to remove plaque and food debris. Especially, after eating meals.
  2. Scrape the back of your tongue (also improves taste sensation).
  3. Hydrate your oral cavity by drinking plenty of water.
  4. Increase saliva with lozenges or gum
  5. For chronic dry mouth, oral products such as Biotène® may help.
  6. Discuss your medications with your doctor. Side effects of many medications can cause dry mouth.
  7. Schedule regular trips to the dentist. Go in for a cleaning every six months to remove plaque and tartar build-up. If you have periodontal or gum disease, see your dentist every three months or sooner, as directed.
  8. Eat a balanced, healthy diet. Avoid sweets.
  9. Be sure to see your physician on a yearly basis for a routine physical to prevent and treat any underlying medical conditions.


Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and not meant to cure, treat illnesses, or prevent disease. Consult with your physician prior to taking any nutritional supplements or starting any treatment plan.


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