Signs & Symptoms

How To Get Rid of Bad Breath: 13 Evidence-Backed Ways

Bad breath can be an embarrassing and stressful problem to deal with. If you're wondering how to get rid of bad breath, this is for you. We're going to go over several bad breath causes, giving you the information you need to see what is currently causing your own case of bad breath. We'll also give you 13 evidence-backed ways to get rid of bad breath that you can try at home. (1)

Contents:

How to Get Rid of Bad Breath: 13 Evidence-Backed Ways
  1. Heal Your Gut
  2. Watch What You Eat
  3. Coconut Pull Every Day
  4. Managing Diabetes
  5. Reduce or Stop Smoking
  6. Practice Good Oral Hygiene
  7. Manage Your Kidney Function
  8. Monitor Your Blood Sugar
  9. Treat Your SIBO
  10. Take Care of Your Dry Mouth
  11. Manage Your Liver Function
  12. Treat any Bacterial Infections
  13. Pay Attention to Your Respiratory Tract
Bottom Line

How to Get Rid of Bad Breath: 13 Evidence-Backed Ways

1. Heal Your Gut

When it comes to your gut, there are several things that can cause bad breath.
Parasitic infections, such as H. Pylori, and inflammation can cause a problem for the digestive tract and lead to an unpleasant odour. (2)

Promoting digestive enzymes is an excellent way to help you heal your gut. These enzymes can help your body break down, digest and absorb large proteins and bacterial by-products. In turn, this can help heal and seal the lining of the gut, reducing intestinal permeability and inflammation. (3)

Consuming healthy fats such as avocado, extra virgin olive oil and nuts is great for gut bacteria as the short-chain fatty acids help the gut produce more n-butyrate to keep the inner walls of your digestive tract healthy. (4)

2. Watch What You Eat

Eating an unhealthy diet may contribute to bad breath because pieces of the things you eat can end up stuck on your tongue and between your teeth. Additionally, certain foods can cause an influx of bacteria that expel unpleasant by-products as they work to break down food in your mouth.(8) Consider reducing your intake of certain foods and adding in more healthy alternatives. Ultra-processed and refined foods, sugar, gluten and wheat can cause inflammation and increased acidity, which cause bad breath. (9)(10)

Alcohol consumption, especially in excess, can have negative implications for your breath. One way alcohol contributes to bad breath is by triggering acid reflux so cutting back on your alcohol consumption can help clean up your breath (12). You may also want to consider swapping carbonated drinks and coffee for water or tea. The caffeine in coffee and the acid in carbonated drinks can directly dry out your mouth, and not having enough saliva in your oral cavity can cause your breath to smell unpleasant. (14) 

girl holding her nose next to a woman with bad breath

3. Coconut Pull Every Day

Oil pulling has a history that dates back centuries as a viable medical treatment to remove harmful bacteria and improve your oral hygiene. To benefit from this, simply swish a small amount of coconut oil around in your mouth once or twice a day. There are claims that the coconut oil will "pull" the bacteria from your mouth, stimulate saliva production and moisturise your gums.

(15)(16) There are around 700 different types of bacteria that can survive in your mouth, and the average person will have around 350 different types at any given time. Certain bacteria types can contribute to bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease. One study showed that people who engaged in oil pulling for 10 minutes each day had significantly lower amounts of bacteria present in their mouths than those who used standard mouthwash.

(17)(19) There was another study that took participants and split them into two groups. One group rinsed their mouths with water and the other group used coconut oil every day for two weeks. The group who used the coconut oil not only had fewer bacteria in their mouths, but also in their saliva directly. Other studies showed that pulling with coconut oil each day could be as effective for helping prevent bad breath and tooth decay as certain toothpastes and mouthwashes. (20)(21)(22)

4. Managing Diabetes

Did you know that your breath can give insights into your overall health? For example, people with type 1 diabetes commonly have fruity smelling breath or a metallic taste each time they eat. (24). This form of bad breath occurs because the body can't produce insulin.

When this happens, your cells won't receive the proper amount of glucose they need to perform their tasks, so they switch to burning fat cells. This produces ketones, which slowly build up in your urine and blood. This can give you the metallic taste, and cause your breath to smell like nail polish remover. (25)(26) Diabetics also suffer from high amounts of periodontal disease where the bacteria in your mouth attack your gums and bone.

The build-up of bacteria can lead to bad breath. (27)(28) Successfully managing  diabetes can help to start healing periodontal disease and infection, and eradicate bad breath.

5. Reduce or Stop Smoking

Over a billion people around the world smoke, and many of these start at a worryingly young age. Unfortunately, there are several links between bad breath and smoking. This includes both cigarette and cigar smoking because the tar and tobacco in cigarettes and cigars can stick to your teeth and in your mouth.

woman breaking her cigarette

These substances have a strong odour, which gets worse the longer they stay in your mouth. Nicotine is the yellow, oily liquid that acts as a stimulant in tobacco. It's highly addictive, and it can coat your teeth and gums when you smoke. (30)(31) Another way that smoking contributes to your bad breath is by drying out your salivary glands. When this happens, the bacteria in your mouth start to thrive because your saliva contains low levels of acids that help prevent bacterial infection.

Tobacco and smoking, in general, can decrease your salivary gland production. This can lead to chronic dry mouth. (32)(33) People who cut back on the amount they smoke or who stop smoking altogether can help get rid of their dry mouth and bad breath. Your salivary glands will start working more effectively, and this can help to reduce the amount of bacteria present in your mouth. (34)

6. Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Practising good dental hygiene is one way to prevent bad breath, but it can also help to prevent other infections as well. You want to brush your teeth twice a day, floss and get regular dental check-ups to maintain adequate oral hygiene. If you don't, you could end up with several problems including inflammation, tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease. (35) As mentioned earlier, you have hundreds of types of bacteria in your mouth. This bacteria plays a pivotal role in helping you break down the food particles that get caught in your teeth. Not practising good oral hygiene allows unpleasant odours from the bacteria, as well as from the decaying food, to stay in your mouth. (36) Another consequence of poor oral hygiene is plaque build-up on your teeth and your gums. 

woman brushing her teeth

Plaque is a sticky substance that causes bad breath, gum disease and tooth decay if you don't remove it by brushing and flossing. Also, plaque can harden into tartar that sits just below your gum line and causes inflammation. (38)(39)

For people who wear dentures, improper cleaning and maintenance can result in bad breath due to a build-up of bacteria. Also, any decaying food that you don't remove from your dentures can start to have a strong odour. (40)

7. Manage Your Kidney Function

People with chronic kidney disease experience a slow and progressive destruction of these organs. Your kidneys slowly lose their ability to excrete water-soluble waste, produce red blood cells, and balance the electrolyte and mineral content in your body.

This can also cause you to have a persistent case of bad breath. (41) As your kidneys lose the ability to flush waste products from your bloodstream, these waste products start to build up. One of the first signs that you have something wrong with your kidneys is a sharp metallic taste that doesn't go away. You'll also notice that the food you eat doesn't taste quite right, and your breath can carry an ammonia smell.

(42)(43) You can do several things to manage your chronic kidney disease and reduce the severity of the ammonia smell on your breath. To start, you have to control and monitor your blood pressure. It's also important that you cut alcohol out of your diet and switch to a more healthy regimen if you're not already on one. Finally, you can also work with your physician to find the right medications to combat the disease. (44)(45)(46)

8. Monitor Your Blood Sugar

Diabetes is a medical condition in which your body has a problem regulating blood sugar (glucose), causing it to run too high. Constantly having high blood sugar can lead to other problems like nerve damage, kidney disease, and eye issues.

(47) We've already discussed the importance of getting diabetes under control, but it is also critical for people with metabolic disorders, such as high blood sugar, to manage their blood sugar levels. Heightened blood sugar levels can lead to a build-up of ketones, resulting in acetone, fruity, or nutty smelling breath. (48)

9. Treat Your SIBO

SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) is a medical issue in which an unhealthy amount of "bad" bacteria in your intestinal tract starts to overtake the "good" bacteria levels. These bacteria can lead to problems like poor nutrient absorption, digestive upset and bad breath.

illustration of intestine and bacteria

(50)(51) As acid builds up in your stomach and digestive tract, the resulting gas will look for a way to escape. The easiest means of escape is by causing the body to burp, and this can lead to bad breath. Ingesting probiotics can help with the management of SIBO. (52)(53) 

10. Take Care of Your Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a condition which means your salivary glands don't produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. Certain medications can cause dry mouth to varying degrees, as can stress. Saliva plays a pivotal role in washing away dead cells and neutralising bacteria. (54)(55)

Small changes, such as using fluoride toothpaste or adding moisture to the air via a humidifier, can help alleviate your dry mouth and get rid of your bad breath. (56)

11. Manage Your Liver Function

People who mismanage liver disease can find themselves with several other medical problems including bad breath. Their liver's inability to deal with the amino acids in their system causes these amino acids to break down. In turn, this creates by-products that can cause musty-smelling breath. (58)(59) It’s crucial to manage liver disease by seeking the help of a healthcare professional, limiting alcohol intake and eating a healthy diet. (60) 

12. Treat any Bacterial Infections

Bacteria are everywhere, and are the root cause for a variety of different infections ranging from respiratory and digestive tract infections through to blood infections. As the bacteria start to take over, they excrete volatile compounds like hydrogen sulphide that cause bad breath. (61)(62) Treating bacterial infections appropriately under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner may in turn, reduce bad breath.(63) 

13. Pay Attention to Your Respiratory Tract

Did you know that your breath's smell is one of the key ways that physicians identify things like respiratory tract infections? You'll notice a musty smell with a respiratory tract infection. (64)(65) Acquiring the right treatment can help manage respiratory tract infections and reduce incidences of bad breath.

Bottom Line

Bad breath can last for months or even years depending on the cause. You are advised to talk to your doctor or dentist about the issue, because they can help you determine the underlying cause. Armed with this insight, you'll then be able to formulate a treatment plan that works best for your situation.

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