An Expert Shares Everything to Know About Combatting Bad Breath

Bad breath—we've all been there!

Whether it's after our daily morning cup o' joe, after we dive into a delicious salad packed with red onions, or it's been a full day without a toothbrush, no one's ever fully immune from this uncomfortable situation.

There are actually a multitude of (sometimes unexpected) causes of bad breath—and plenty of ways to stop it in its tracks. We reached out to Lawrence Fung, DDS, Cosmetic Dentist and Founder of Silicon Beach Dental. Keep reading for everything he told Sweety High about combatting bad breath!

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Sweety High: What causes bad breath?

Lawrence Fung: There are various causes. The most common culprit could be food that was just eaten. Garlic and onions will cause bad breath due to the sulfur content in it. Smoking can also cause bad breath (and yellow teeth as nicotine stains your teeth). Dry mouth is also a common culprit.

Bad oral hygiene is the next biggest culprit. When you don't brush and floss consistently and correctly, you end up with plaque buildup. The plaque layer that builds up on our teeth will cause bad breath since it traps smelly bacteria as well as other bad odors.

If the bacteria is allowed to cause swelling of the gums—aka gingivitis, it can lead to periodontitis, which is when the inflammation of gum disease has reached into the bone of our teeth, contributing to a foul smell.

The last cause of bad breath can be something more internal—our GI tract. When our gut health is imbalanced, it can cause our breath to smell.

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SH: Is there any way to permanently fix this issue?

LF: Depending on the cause. If you still have bad breath after staying away from "smelly" foods, if your oral hygiene is impeccable (when brushing twice a day, rinsing with an alcohol-free mouthwash and flossing after meals), then you may want to consult with your dentist. Sometimes periodontal disease can cause bad breath. If your dentist doesn't find a dental cause for the bad breath (halitosis), then they may refer you to your primary care physician for a GI referral.


SH: Even temporarily, are there any unexpected household products that can keep bad breath at bay?

LF: Lemon water or mint tea can temporarily help freshen your breath. Chewing on fibrous foods like celery sticks and apples can also help clean teeth naturally to help prevent plaque buildup.

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SH: What are the biggest myths about bad breath?

LF: One, that you can tell if you have bad breath by breathing into your hand. When we breathe into our hands, we're missing out on smells produced at the back of the tongue, where bad breath typically originates.

Second, that when you have halitosis, you have an underlying illness. While some people do have bad breath due to another medical issue, it can just be bad oral hygiene or eating food that produces gas that smells like rotting cabbage.

Lastly, it's a myth that alcohol kills bad breath-causing germs. Dry mouth actually can contribute to bad breath, and alcohol tends to dehydrate your mouth. If you're drinking alcohol, try to alternate it with some soda water with lemon and mint. Also refrain from using mouthwash that contains alcohol. Hello makes a variety of alcohol-free mouthwash that doesn't sting.


SH: What are the best temporary fixes for bad breath?

LF: In terms of temporary fixes, old school Altoids can help temporarily mask bad breath. Sugarless gum can also help by stimulating saliva and to help remove any food stuck on your teeth.

But to truly ease bad breath, make sure you have a solid oral care routine. Brush twice a day for two minutes (most people only brush for 30-40 seconds), using either an electronic brush or a brush with tapered bristles, like Hello's charcoal-infused toothbrush. Try an anti-plaque toothpaste like Hello's Antiplaque+Whitening Fluoride Free toothpaste. Use mouthwash to rinse away anything brushing alone doesn't get rid of. Floss often—after each meal, before you brush, and after you brush. Hello's Charcoal Infused floss is black, which helps you see how much plaque you're removing.

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SH: What are good and bad breath-inducing foods or drinks?

LF: Some bad breath-inducing foods are garlic and onion. Some people also find fishy food like tuna off-putting. Drinks like coffee and alcohol with their drying effects can allow smelly bacteria to linger and cause more bad breath gas.

Foods that help improve your breath and overall oral hygiene include lemon water (although this is very acidic and can weaken enamel, leading to cavities), mint, celery, apples and other hydrating fruits, and green tea. Green tea is actually great to freshen up your breath and gives you a slight caffeine boost.


SH: Does scraping your tongue really make a difference?

LF: It does! I highly recommended to use a tongue scraper as it helps remove the layer of bad smell causing bacteria.

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SH: What if you've eaten or drank something and the bad breath won't go away. Any tips?

LF: I would try to brush your teeth, floss, and use a cleansing mouth rinse. Lately my favorite has been the Hemp Seed Oil range from Hello. It's a great flavor and a great natural way to improve bad breath. Also be sure to drink lots of water to keep hydrated.


If you hate flossing your teeth, HERE's how to make it more enjoyable!