10 Home Remedies for Bad Breath

woman holding hand over mouth bad breath

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Bad breath, which is a consistent unpleasant odor also known as halitosis, can be embarrassing and frustrating. There have been few studies determining the prevalence of bad breath, but it is thought to affect up to 50% of people in the United States at some point in their lives.

Although it is best to speak to a dentist or healthcare provider about the potential causes of your bad breath, there are some ways to help alleviate it at home through natural remedies. Of course, the first line of defense is proper dental hygiene.

Make sure you are getting regular dental checkups and brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride. You also should brush your tongue and floss regularly.

Although the causes of bad breath are often multifactorial, 90% of cases are due to oral cavity factors such as insufficient dental hygiene, infections, and other oral causes.

Causes of Bad Breath

"There are billions of bacteria that live on your gums, teeth, and tongue that cause bad breath," says Sharon Huang, DDS, MICOI of Les Belles NYC.

There are several reasons why bad breath bacteria can occur. In addition to foods causing bad breath, health conditions and medical issues also can lead to odors. These conditions may need to be treated independently to fully address bad breath.

Potential Causes of Bad Breath

  • Postnasal drip
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Tonsilitis
  • Respiratory tract infection
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Acid reflux or other digestive disorders
  • Improper dental hygiene
  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontal disease
  • Dry mouth

Some people who think they have bad breath actually do not. This is a common belief called "pseudo-halitosis." Fear of having bad breath (halitophobia) is also prevalent.

Speak to a healthcare provider if you are consistently concerned about your breath and do not know whether your worries are justified. A mental health professional also may be able to help.

Home Remedies for Bad Breath

It is important to brush the teeth, gums, and tongue twice as well as floss twice daily to help with bad breath, says Dr. Huang. You also can try some home remedies for temporary relief.

"I also recommend looking for natural products with active ingredients that will target cavities and gum health," she adds. "These are effective against bacteria and fungus."

Drink More Water

One prominent cause of bad breath is a lack of saliva. Drinking more water can help flush out bacteria and prevent or treat bad breath. Drinking sufficient water can also contribute to good oral health while preventing diseases that can cause bad breath.

Eat More Chewy Foods

Foods that help increase saliva production, such as carrots and apples, can work much in the same way as drinking more water. Because these foods require more chewing, they hydrate your mouth and flush out bacteria, preventing further growth.

Try Sugar Free Gum or Candy

Sugar-free gum and candy also work to increase saliva production and flush away bacteria. Plus, many gums and candies contain flavors and scents like mint that help to counter the offending odors.

Drink Green or Black Tea

Some compounds found in green and black tea called polyphenols could prevent the growth of bacteria that causes bad breath. Additionally, polyphenols might work to prevent hydrogen sulfide production by bacteria. Drinking tea also boosts your hydration levels, flushing bacteria away before it can grow.

Use a Natural Mouthwash

Mouthwash containing zinc has been shown to effectively decrease bad breath by neutralizing sulfuric compounds that lead to malodor. Also, look for a mouthwash that includes essential oils like peppermint, tea tree, or lemon, which may help reduce bacteria and mask the odor. You can usually find tea tree oil-containing mouthwash in health food stores and some drug stores.

Sharon Huang, DDS, MICOI

Tea tree oil is antibacterial and antifungal.

— Sharon Huang, DDS, MICOI

Chew on Fragrant Herbs or Spices

Herbs and spices such as rosemary, peppermint, and fennel may help freshen your breath and mask smells. This is especially true when consumed after foods that cause bad breath. Chewing herbs and spices also might help increase saliva production, flush out food particles, and add a pleasant fragrance.

Use a Tongue Scraper

A foul odor on your breath may originate from bacteria on your tongue where they produce odor-causing gases. Research shows that you can reduce bacteria by up to 42% by brushing your tongue with a toothbrush, tongue scraper, or tongue cleaner.

Try Coconut Oil Pulling

Oil pulling has been shown in studies to effectively reduce plaque formation and gingivitis caused by plaque buildup and plaque-induced gingivitis. Research supports the use of coconut oil as an easy, safe, and cost-effective dental health supplement to aid in oral hygiene.

"Coconut oil pulling is a great way of keeping your teeth clean and breath fresh," says Dr. Huang. "Coconut oil contains vitamins A, D, E, and K [and] has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It may help fight plaque and gingivitis."

According to Dr. Huang, the practice of oil pulling dates back to India and Ayurvedic traditional medicine. It is also really easy to do.

"Simply swish with your favorite organic coconut oil for 20 minutes daily," Dr. Huang explains. "If you’re new to pulling, work your way up to 20 minutes by starting with 5-minute increments."

Consume More Fermented Dairy

Fermented dairy products contain beneficial bacteria that may ward off the offending bad-breath causing bacteria. Research shows that consuming fermented dairy such as yogurt can help prevent a range of oral and gastrointestinal conditions that cause bad breath.

Alternatively, try a probiotic supplement. Probiotics may help reduce bad breath, according to research. Lactobacillus salivarius, Streptococcus, and Weissella supplements can reduce bacteria and odor caused by it.

Avoid Offending Foods

Foods such as onions, garlic, fish, and certain spices can cause temporary bad breath. Although you should feel comfortable consuming any foods, if you are at a social event or spending time with friends and want to avoid temporary bad breath, it may be a good idea to avoid eating these foods.

Eating a mint, brushing your teeth, or using mouthwash after consuming these foods should help. But if you don't have access straight away, skip these ingredients.

When to See a Dentist

"If you are regularly brushing, flossing, and rinsing your mouth with mouthwash twice daily and you still have bad breath, that’s a sign to seek help from a dentist," says Dr. Huang. "If you have any pain or gum tenderness along with blood when you brush or floss, that’s also a sign to seek help as there could be an underlying issue going on."

A Word From Verywell

Bad breath can be embarrassing, but there are ways to treat it. Natural remedies can be very effective when combined with proper oral hygiene practices.

See a dentist if bad breath is an issue that persists, especially if you are regularly brushing and flossing. You also should see a dentist or healthcare provider if you have other symptoms that accompany the bad breath.

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