The medical term for bad breath is halitosis. Halitosis impacts one in five people. While bad breath is unpleasant (and admittedly a little yucky), it’s a fairly common occurrence. Sometimes, bad breath relates to inadequate oral hygiene practices. Other times, halitosis is a symptom of a larger medical condition that needs to be addressed by a professional.
Understanding the cause of your bad breath will help you determine if a toothpaste (or another oral health practice) can help you remedy the situation. If the cause of your bad breath isn’t related to oral hygiene or your diet, you may need to pursue other avenues.
What Causes Bad Breath
If you only have bad breath in the morning, this isn’t usually a problem. Morning breath stems from the fact that your mouth slows your processes while your sleep. Saliva production slows significantly, so any bacteria left in your mouth overnight is able to stick around without being washed away. You should be brushing your teeth first thing in the morning. Adequate dental care when you first wake up will knock your bad breath out for the rest of the day.
Some foods and drinks can cause bad breath. Foods like black coffee and garlic aren’tbad for you. Coffee may stain your teeth, but that’s the extent of the damage you’ll have to be concerned with when you sip your morning cup. Brushing your teeth after a hearty Italian meal and a cup of espresso will eliminate the remaining food particles in your mouth, eliminating the cause of your bad breath.
Some causes of bad breath are a little more difficult to get rid of. Bad breath that stems from plaque buildup, overall mouth bacterial imbalance, chronic dry mouth, or a lack of flossing requires a little more intervention to solve. These problems won’t sort themselves out.
How Does Toothpaste Work?
Toothpaste works by removing bacteria from your mouth. The overwhelming majority of toothpastes aren’t designed to kill bacteria. They scrub bacteria from your teeth, gather them up in the lather, and make them easier to spit out. Most toothpastes also contain remineralizing ingredients, like fluoride or natural alternatives to fluoride, that will help to make the teeth stronger.
It’s safe to assume that fewer bacteria in your mouth will ultimately lead to better breath, but most conventional toothpastes don’t solve all the issues that lead to bad breath. Toothpaste is not the be all, end all instrument of good oral hygiene. It needs to be used in conjunction with other products and routines to achieve and maintain a healthy mouth.
If Most Toothpaste Won’t Work, What Will?
Toothpaste with an effective antibacterial ingredient may help to kill some of the bacteria that cause bad breath, plaque, and gum disease. Antibacterial ingredients need to be used with care and wisely selected.
To keep your breath from smelling bad, you need to maintain a healthy oral microbiome. Harsh antibacterial ingredients, like alcohol, will indiscriminately kill all the microorganisms in your mouth. Some of the microorganisms in your mouth are necessary to maintain oral health, and killing them faster than your body can replenish them will only put you at a disadvantage.
Natural antibacterial ingredients like nano silver begin to destroy bacteria by removing electrons from their cell wall. When the structure of the bacteria is destroyed, it’s no longer effective. The weaker cell wall allows more nano silver to penetrate the bacteria, carrying it around your mouth to other bacteria and beginning the process of damaging them.
While this is happening, the rest of your normal bodily functions are at work. You’re creating new good bacteria while the existing bacteria are being destroyed. You’re never fully without good bacteria throughout the process. Your body flushes away the bacteria as they die, and the good bacteria keep coming. As a result, your mouth is able to swiftly reestablish its ideal bacteria balance.
Mouthwash for Bad Breath
If the active ingredient in your mouthwash is bacteria, you’re no better off. All the bacteria, including the good bacteria, will be killed on contact. Your mouth may have a difficult time reestablishing the right balance, and you’ll be back at square one.
You’ll be dependent on antibacterial products constantly, because your bad bacteria will never be balanced by good bacteria that also cannot thrive in that environment. For that reason, it’s better to use a natural mouthwash with an ingredient like nano silver.
As an alternative to natural mouthwash, you can also use other gentle bacteria management methods like oil pulling. Coconut oil is more than half lauric acid. Lauric acid is a natural antibacterial agent that traps bacteria as it kills them. The texture of the oil is stucky, causing it to “pull” loose food debris and bacteria out of your entire mouth. Oil pulling will affect your teeth, as well as your tongue and your gums.
Swishing with the oil will draw everything into a little cyclone. The texture of the oil holds onto everything it grabs, making it easy for you to spit out the bacteria and debris that were lingering around your mouth.
Flossing and Plaque Removal for Bad Breath
Flossing may not be the most exciting part of your oral care routine, but it’s one of the most important. Flossing allows you to effectively clean out the tiny crevices between each tooth. Small bits of food debris build up in these crevices, creating bacteria and fostering a fertile breeding ground as they break down. Rotting food laden with bacteria is not a very pleasant smell, and the odor will linger on your breath.
Flossing before your nighttime brushing will help to remove everything that’s gotten stuck. Mouthwash or oil pulling in addition to tooth brushing will ascertain that everything you’ve removed by flossing will effectively leave your mouth.
Flossing can also help to prevent plaque buildup. The bad bacteria in your mouth form a sticky, textured layer on your teeth called a matrix. This matrix holds onto food and gives the bacteria a comfortable place to sit. Every time you eat, you’re also feeding these bacteria. They’re particularly fond of sugar and carbohydrates. They’ll eat the little particles left in your mouth and excrete an acidic substance that causes tooth decay.
If the debris laden matrix riddled with bacteria isn’t removed thoroughly or often enough, it will begin to harden. This hardened mass is called plaque, and it’s notoriously difficult to remove from teeth. It’s stuck on very well, and most plaque removal toothpastes use harsh abrasive ingredients to help you scrub them away. These abrasive ingredients will also quickly strip your teeth of enamel, leaving them weaker than they were before.
If you already have set-on plaque, you’ll need to have it professionally removed. The plaque removal kits you see at the drugstore have sharp scraping tools that are very easy to use incorrectly. If you attempt to remove your plaque at home, you can severely damage your gums and scrape away the healthy surface of your teeth.
Dentists have special tools and use careful procedures to remove plaque while minimizing the risk of damage to your tooth enamel. While it may be costly to have your plaque removed, the resulting damage of unchecked plaque or a bad home removal job will cost you exponentially more in the long run. It can even cost you your teeth.
What if My Bad Breath Comes From Chronic Dry Mouth?
Chronic dry mouth can be a side effect of many common medications. If your mouth is always dry, you want to take care to avoid drying it further. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and avoid eating dry foods that will further remove the saliva from your mouth.
Many people with chronic dry mouth avoid toothpaste with SLS, or sodium lauryl sulfate. SLS is a surfactant ingredient that strips oils from the surface of the skin, scalp, cheeks, and gums. Omitting it from your toothpaste may reduce the severity of your dry mouth.
What if My Mouth is Healthy But I Still Have Bad Breath?
If your mouth is healthy but you still have bad breath, see your doctor. Bad breath can be a symptom of diabetes, a dental infection below the gumline that you cannot see, sinusitis or postnasal drip, bronchitis, gastrointestinal disturbance, or some conditions affecting the liver and kidneys.
If you have bad breath and you’re on a ketogenic diet, a strange fruity smell can be a sign that the diet is working. You’re breathing out ketones, and you’re losing weight. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a small price to pay for taking control of your health. You’ll have to learn to live with it or switch diets.
The best way to manage bad breath is through good oral hygiene habits and preventative care. Ideally, you don’t want to give your teeth an opportunity to accumulate plaque and begin to decay. You want to take great care of them on a consistent basis to prevent plaque from forming and to keep decay from setting in.
If you’re unsure of the cause of your bad breath and great oral hygiene isn’t fixing it, or if your bad breath comes in conjunction with symptoms in other areas of your body, see a doctor immediately.
Source 1 - coffee is good for you
Source 2 - lauric acid kills bacteria
Source 3 - mayo clinic / dry mouth