Dr. Willie Ong
Oh no, not bad breath! It’s one of the social sins that keeps people a safe distance away from you. Actually, a number of people have bad breath but people are just respectful not to tell them that.
You see, the nose has a funny way of getting used to our own smells. Therefore, it’s possible that you have halitosis (medical term for bad breath), but just don’t know you have it. To make sure our breath smells fresh, let’s look at four tests.
First, cup your hands over your nose and mouth and exhale a slow and deep “haaaaa.” If it smells kind of bad, then you have halitosis. A second test is to lick the back part of your hand with the tip of your tongue, and smell it after a minute. If it smells like dirty laundry, then you have bad breath. A third test is to floss between your teeth and smell the debris you removed. If it stinks, then you can also smell bad. Hence, brush and floss daily. The fourth and most direct method is by asking a friend to smell your breath. It’s kind of embarrassing but it’s a foolproof method.
Do you know what causes bad breath? It’s caused by the anaerobic bacteria that break down the food we chew and turn them into volatile sulfur compounds (VSC). These VSCs are responsible for the foul smell. And so, if you want to get rid of bad breath, here are some suggestions to follow:
- Don’t eat too much garlic, onions and chili. These spices contain essential oils that stick to your mouth and stomach for 24 hours after eating. Even if you brush your teeth, the smell will still stay there. One quick remedy is to sip some lemon or calamansi to counteract the smell.
- Don’t smoke. You can tell a smoker from several feet away. One writer likened the smell to an ashtray. And smoking is bad for your health.
- Avoid spiced meats like pepperoni ang salami. Just like garlic, these greasy meats have smelly oils that stick to your breath for a long time. For example, when someone burps, you know they just ate pizza with pepperoni and garlic.
- Avoid smelly cheese. I know these strong cheeses and wines are expensive appetizers, but try to limit eating these foods.
- Avoid smelly fish. There are some fishes, like milkfish (bangus), and local delicacies like bagoong and alamang, which stay in your breath a long time. Choose cleaner and less smelly fishes, like white fish.
- Stick to water and drink a lot. Beer, wine, whisky and strong coffee top the list of smelly drinks. These drinks leave a residue in your mouth, which other people can smell. Also, drinking a lot of water can dilute the anaerobic bacteria inside the mouth, hence reducing bad breath.
- Gargle several times after eating. If you don’t have a toothbrush handy, try gargling with water. Swish the water left and right and all over your mouth vigorously. Do this several times. This will reduce the residue and odor left by the food you just ate.
- Bring an extra toothbrush and toothpaste. After each meal, brush your teeth immediately in order to remove the smell of food. Brush three times a day.
- Use a tongue cleaner. A lesser-known culprit for bad breath is the trapped dirt on the tongue. The tongue is actually covered by hair-like fleshy protrusions that can accumulate dirt and bacteria. The best way to remove the dirt is by scraping it off with a tongue cleaner. Brushing your tongue with a toothbrush is a poor substitute because this just makes the dirt go around the tongue.
- Use a dental floss. Food and dirt inevitably get trapped between the teeth, and not all of the debris can be removed by tooth brushing. If you don’t floss, these in-between dirt will slowly decay and start smelling bad. Floss daily, especially before you sleep at night.
- Consider a mouthwash. There’s some controversy over this. Some experts do not advise using a mouthwash because it dries the mouth. However, mouthwashes can reduce bacteria and bad breath. As a compromise, maybe you can dilute the mouthwash in water and use it occasionally.
- See your dentist every six months. Some cases of bad breath really come from infections of the mouth, teeth and gums. Tooth decay is a common cause for bad breath.
If the above steps do not cure your bad breath, you should consult a doctor, preferably a gastroenterologist or Ear Nose Throat (ENT) doctor. Sometimes, bad breath emanates from inside the throat and stomach.
One emergency tip: If you’re up for a date or a short interview, you can try chewing mint-flavored gum. This will temporarily cover up the smell (until after your date), but it won’t cure your bad breath.
Bad breath may seem like a trivial thing, but it can keep you from getting the deal, finding a date, and having wonderful friends. Find out if you have bad breath and take the necessary steps to cure it.