Bad breath is unpleasant, often persistent, and affects almost everyone at some point. Our 4 self-tests will tell you whether you have bad breath. Plus: The most effective measures against bad breath
This is how a weekend can begin: Your girlfriend is waiting for you on the couch. But when you approach to kiss, she suddenly says: “Brush your teeth.” The curse of bad breath. Halitosis, as bad breath is medically known, not only puts established love to the test. It’s also date killer number 1. And through the masks that we are currently wearing due to the pandemic.
Bad breath is a taboo subject. How can you address it without embarrassing the other? Millions of people around the world suffer from bad breath. We’ll tell you how to avoid bad breath and what will help immediately in an emergency. Also: How you can use a self-test to check whether you smell out of your mouth or not.
How Does Bad Breath Arise?
The air we exhale consists of 78% nitrogen, 17% oxygen and 4% carbon dioxide. The remainder of 1% is other gases such as sulfur compounds. These can smell bad. The gases are created by around 600 different types of bacteria that live in the mouth and throat. They break down protein substances, food residues or dead cells. This makes amino acids first. If the bacteria break down these in turn, the foul-smelling gases are formed. Result: bad breath.
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What Are The Causes Of Bad Breath?
There are a great many factors, says Dr Ayten Dogan, a dentist from Hamburg. In 70 to 90% of cases, halitosis develops in the oral cavity itself.
These Are The Triggers For Bad Breath:
- Inadequate Oral Hygiene: Those who do not or only insufficiently brush their teeth after eating give germs and putrefactive bacteria plenty of space to multiply.
- Gingivitis And Periodontitis: If oral hygiene is neglected, the risk that the gums become infected by bacteria (rare fungi and viruses) also increases. If the gingivitis is not treated in good time, the tooth-supporting structure becomes inflamed (periodontitis). Study results have shown that these two inflammations together cause lousy breath in around 20% of those affected.
- The Bacterial Coating On The Tongue: In almost 50% of all cases, the cause is on the back of the tongue. Reason: Because of the fissured structure of the tongue, bacteria can nestle there very well. “Most people forget that the tongue is part of everyday oral hygiene,” says Dr Ayten Dogan. Cleaning not only removes the many bacteria that lead to bad breath. It also protects against colds. So, use a tongue brush – but gently. The tongue is not sandpaper but a muscle with delicate taste buds.
- Dental Implants: Bacteria can easily attach to the artificial edges of implants, or food scraps get caught, which then smell strong.
- Dry Mouth (colostomy): Triggered by stress, snoring, alcohol consumption or the side effects of certain medications (antidepressants, beta-blockers, appetite suppressants, or antihistamines that are prescribed for allergies). This restricts the vital flow of saliva. The salivary glands take on the cleaning function in our mouth by producing up to 1.5 litres of saliva per day. Bacteria, fungi, viruses and leftover food are washed away. If the flow of saliva is disturbed, the chance of lousy breath increases.
- Diet Change: Fasting or dieting can cause the mouth to dry out more quickly. Make sure you drink enough water throughout the day to keep your mucous membranes moist. Only then can the saliva flow away from the stinking substances.
- Caries: The bacterial species Streptococcus mutans nests in the tooth holes. This metabolizes food residues, and sulfur gases are produced. Mouthwash does not help here in the long term.
Why Do You Have Bad Breath In The Morning?
“Many have bad breath in the morning because they are mouth breathers and sleep with their mouths open,” explains the expert. Remedy: Drink a glass of water.
What Can be Dangerous Causes of Bad Breath?
Bad breath can also have dangerous causes. Then, when you breathe out with your mouth closed, a foul smell also comes out through your nose. In these cases, the following areas in the body are particularly affected:
- Stomach: In “gastroesophageal reflux disease” (GERD), the automatic gastric muscle closure is disturbed (often triggered by an unhealthy lifestyle, such as fatty food and smoking). Acidic gastric juice, therefore, flows back into the oesophagus. The sour climate can then rise to the throat and mouth. Result: nasty lousy breath. Off to the doctor.
- Throat: infected tonsils secrete a foul-smelling secretion. Another cause: tonsil stones. Everyone has these, but dead cells and bacteria appear more frequently, with some small white and yellow balls made of leftover food. They’re not dangerous, but they smell. Self-help: Remove with a plastic spatula. In some people, they even come off with a forceful sneeze.
- Esophagus: Esophageal diverticula are bulges in the wall of the oesophagus. They are more likely to occur in old age and men. Decomposed food remains stuck in the bubbles. Consequence: chronic bad breath. Symptoms: including difficulty swallowing and frequent swallowing.
- Nose: Poor breathing can be caused by obstructed nasal breathing. For example, through so-called rhinosinusitis, the simultaneous inflammation of the nasal mucosa and the mucous membrane of the paranasal sinuses. And if you can no longer breathe freely through your nose, you quickly switch to mouth breathing.
In rare cases, bad breath can also be caused by these severe diseases: purulent abscesses in the lungs, weak kidneys (breath smells like urine) or diabetes mellitus (sweet breath).
How do I know if I have bad breath?
Most people don’t even know if they have bad breath. Just because nobody might want to tell you. But also because the widespread self-test, breathing on the cupped hand, often does not reveal anything: the brain is already used to our stench. But: There are other tests to check whether you are currently suffering from bad breath.
4 ways to detect bad breath:
- Empty plastic bag: Instead of the cupped hand, take a small plastic bag and breathe into it. All you have to do is place the plastic bag over your lips and then hold it to your nose.
- “Schleck-Test”: lick your arm or the back of your hand and then smell the area.
- Swab smell test: Use a cotton swab to take a swab from the back of your tongue. Could you wait 30 seconds, then smell it?
- Holometer test: The Halimeter device measures how many sulfur compounds are in the air you breathe. Get it at the dentist. (Costs around 100 euros) or in the electronics market.
7 tips that will help against bad breath
How to get rid of your bad breath successfully:
- Prevention through oral hygiene: You must brush your teeth half an hour after eating if the situation allows. To do this, clean the spaces between interdental brushes or dental floss of food residues and bacteria. Professional tooth cleaning (PZR) has the advantage that by polishing the teeth, fewer bacteria adhere, and bad smells can spread in the mouth. Think of the tongue scraper.
- Pay attention to your lifestyle: If you smoke, your mouth smells like an ashtray. If you also drink coffee, a foul-smelling mixture is created that keeps your fellow human beings at a distance.
- Avoid foods that are particularly common in causing bad breath: coffee, alcohol, garlic and onion plants (including wild garlic). This will get rid of the garlic odour.
- Chewing gum kills bacteria: Chewing sugar-free chewing gum creates saliva that contains oxygen. This is the natural enemy of bacteria.
- Mouthwashes: Mouthwashes only help if they have an antibacterial effect. Pay attention to the ingredient chlorhexidine digluconate.
- Chlorophyll tablets: They only allow for a short time, if at all.
Which Home Remedies Or Foods Help Against Bad Breath?
- Green tea has antibacterial properties.
- The same applies to cinnamon, which contains essential oils and combats bad breath. Powder a little over your breakfast cereal.
- Chewing fruit and fresh vegetables, such as celery or apples, eliminates bad breath in two ways: It promotes salivation, and the firm consistency scrubs away stubborn bacteria, says Dr Harold Katz, bacteriologist and founder of the California Breath Clinic.
- Eat plain yoghurt. The lactic acid bacteria it contains prevent putrefactive bacteria from spreading.
- Parsley, dill and fennel have the essential oil apiol, which neutralizes bad breath.
When do I have to see a doctor with bad breath?
If the above doesn’t help. First, visit your trusted dentist. They will help you further by checking your mouth for inflammation or referring you to an ENT doctor.
Is there an imaginary lousy breath?
Yes! According to a US study by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda of 2,000 patients, an average of 16% of people suffer from so-called pseudo-halitosis. And there is another form: the halo phobia. Those who suffer from it imagine they have bad breath, even if tests have long since proven the opposite. Only a psychiatrist can help here.
Conclusion: oral care removes lousy breath
In most cases, bad breath results from neglecting oral and dental care. Essential: Clean your tongue every day and go to the dentist regularly for preventive care. Keep your mucous membranes moist; drink a lot. The good thing: All of these measures ensure not only fresh breath but also healthy teeth.