What Are the Treatments for Halitosis?

Halitosis, commonly known as bad breath, can negatively affect many factors of a person’s life. Properly identifying the cause of a person’s bad breath is essential in figuring out how to treat it. Bacteria in the mouth that produce sulfur gases cause most bad breath, while other causes are blood-borne or due to poor digestion. The most effective treatments for halitosis are changes in overall diet and lifestyle or they are mechanical-based or chemical-based.

Mechanical-Based Treatments

A mechanical approach to treating halitosis refers to the physical tools a person can use to eliminate the bacteria and food debris that cause bad breath. The April 2002 issue of “Scientific American” says that nearly 90 percent of bad breath originates within the mouth. The bacteria that live and thrive in the mouth can hide on the surface of the tongue and in between teeth, in the throat and within the gums. Learning to properly brush the tongue is essential. Tongue scrapers are specifically made for removing bacterial buildup on the surface and grooves of the tongue. A person can also use water pics to gently remove food debris in between teeth. Daily flossing is also a helpful tool for removing food buildup between the teeth.

Chemical-Based Treatments

Because most bad breath cases originate from bacteria within the mouth, certain antibacterial agents have proven rather useful in treating bad breath. Some mouthwashes simply mask bad breath for short periods and some may even worsen bad breath, such as alcohol-based washes. Chemical agents such as chlorhexidine, thymol, menthol, eucalyptol, triclosan, zinc and chlorine dioxide eliminate bacteria that produce sulfur gases. The August 2008 issue of “Brazilian Oral Research” found that these chemical treatments have reduced halitosis.

Diet and Lifestyle

Treating bad breath by changing a person’s diet and lifestyle may also prove beneficial in eliminating sources of bad breath. Certain foods like onions, garlic and fish are notorious for causing bad breath, and according to the Mayo Clinic, the odor may stay in the system for up to 72 hours after ingestion. Other foods can help reduce bad breath from belching and blood-borne causes. Fruits high in citric acid can help break down fats and oils in the system that may lead to bad breath. The University of California-San Diego suggests supplementing the diet with vitamin C and E, selenium and folic acid. The April 2008 issue of “Gastroenterology” found that supplementing the diet with foods high in probiotics, such as yogurt, was significantly beneficial in reducing halitosis originating in the gastrointestinal tract. In terms of lifestyle, doing yoga may be helpful in reducing bad breath. Svyasa University recommends massaging the gums and tongue with the thumb and forefinger for five minutes each, which they claim not only cleans the food particles and dead organic matter in the mouth, but the pressure and massage increases the blood flow and healthy cell turn over in the oral cavity, preventing abnormal bacteria growth.

About this Author

Boyd Bergeson has been writing since 2000 and has contributed to published research with the National Institute of Health and The Indian Health Board. Bergeson is currently a mental health professional and has worked as a university instructor, senior medical research assistant, textbook editor, and bicycle shop owner. He has a Master of Science in sociology from Portland State University.