Ask the Doctor: How Can I Prevent Bad Breath?

Q. What causes bad breath and how can I get rid of it?

A. You are certainly not alone. Let’s face it. We have all suffered from bad breath at one time or another. It is extremely common.

onions 201x300 Ask the Doctor: How Can I Prevent Bad Breath? Photo

The smell of onions can stay with you for 3 days!

The thing is, before it can be treated, the cause of the bad breath must be pinpointed. 

The most common culprits for bad breath are:

  • Smoking – tobacco which lends its scent to the mouth, and the smoke from the lungs comes out with each expiration
  • Eating – certain foods like onions, spices (cumin, curry) and garlic can stay with you for three days until it is metabolized and out of your system
  • Food particles trapped in between your teeth and gums release odor through exhalation. The breakdown of these food particles also emit an odor
  • Ketones – from fat breakdown during diets (if dehydration is present especially)
  • Dehydration leading to dry mouth emits an odor
  • Drugs leading to dry mouth such as cold medications and those that treat allergies, sinusitis and problems related to diabetes, the liver, stomach and kidney.
  • Gingivitis (gum disease)


Easy Ways to Freshen Your Breath 

Antimicrobial mouth washes – kills the bacteria that create bad breath while ridding the mouth of bacteria leading to gingivitis from plaque build-up. The fluorides within some of the rinses also help in tooth decay prevention. Rinse to free trapped food particles.

Brush your teeth regularly - rids your mouth of the trapped food particles between your teeth and gums, improves the health of the gums and keeps the odor-causing tartar and plaque from building up on the teeth. Brush the tongue too! Many toothbrushes actually come with a tongue scraper on the opposite side of the bristles.

Drink plenty of water – this contributes to saliva manufacture which cleanses the mouth and bathes the teeth. Water also rids the body of ketones and other chemicals that cause odors as well as washing away bits of food and bacteria.

Eat fruits - Biting and chewing on hard fruits and vegetables like carrots, celery, apples, and pears help clear the mouth of trapped food particles and odor-causing plaque.

Don’t skip breakfast - the “bird-cage” mouth that we feel upon waking is a combination of dryness and chemicals from hunger. Eating as well as drinking will help stave off these odors.

Sucking breath mints - called this for a reason, the mints emit a clean, fresh smell.

Chew sugarless gum with xylitol – chewing the gum induces your body to make more saliva which bathes your mouth and cleans your teeth. The xylitol helps to prevent growth of the bacteria and also helps remove food particles that are lodged between teeth.

Manage medical conditions - keep diabetes and other health disorders under control.


Taking these simple steps will keep your breath fresh for the long haul!