The holiday party season is here! Whether your schedule is jam-packed with rounds of shiny soirees, if you’re looking forward to a few quiet moments together with family and friends, or anything in between, you’re likely getting prepared for your busy holiday plans. In considering your outfits and how photo-ready you are overall, you may also have given some thought to how ready your smile is for the upcoming festivities. Sure, you may have considered whitening treatments if you’re not happy with the color of your pearly whites, but if you have halitosis, you almost certainly have given some thought to getting rid of that bad breath before the major social season begins. So, if your holiday magic is being hampered by worries of bad breath, don’t stress—attack the problem head-on.
How Do I Know if I Have Halitosis?
The easiest way to check is to ask someone you trust. If you’re not comfortable asking for an outside opinion, you can run a simple check by licking the back of your hand and smelling it or wiping the inside of your mouth with gauze or an unscented paper towel. It’s surprisingly common, but it’s important to remember that halitosis, chronic bad breath, is a symptom of another condition rather than a condition itself.
So How Do I Get Rid of It?
The best way to get rid of halitosis is to find out what is causing it and treat the underlying cause. Some of the most common causes include:
Infections: Bacteria often have an unpleasant odor. Infections of the teeth and gums can be major contributors to bad breath. You may be surprised to know that sinus infections or infections in the tonsils can also give you seriously unpleasant breath.
Solution: Treat the underlying infection. You will probably need to visit your doctor or dental care team to get the infection diagnosed and to pick the appropriate treatment. If it is a serious bacterial infection, antibiotics may help. If it is a yeast or fungal infection, high pH rinses or antifungal medications may help get the infection under control.
Sloppy Oral Care: It’s entirely possible that food hanging around in your mouth is causing that off scent. Any time food sticks around in the mouth too long, trouble is sure to follow.
Solution: Slow down and improve your care technique. Brush for two full minutes with a soft bristle brush, giving full attention to cleaning every tooth surface and the tongue. Clean in-between teeth with floss, a water interdental cleaner, an interdental brush, or other appropriate solution. Your cleaner mouth will pay off in better breath.
GERD: If you have chronic heartburn, you may experience GERD, a chronic reflux condition where the valve at the top of the stomach does not close completely, allowing stomach acid and partially digested food to come back up into the esophagus or mouth. As you can imagine, partially digested food does not smell pleasant, and it can cause breath to be similarly unpleasant.
Solution: GERD requires a doctor’s diagnosis, but if you find yourself reaching for the antacids daily, it’s worth taking time to have a conversation with your doctor or dentist to see if you should consider treatment with a medication specifically for this condition. Treating GERD can help more areas of oral health than just halitosis, too. Reducing the amount of acid in your mouth can decrease you risk of oral caries (cavities) as well.
Dry Mouth: Dry mouth lets bacteria overgrow in your mouth. More than just unpleasant, the lack of saliva can aggravate your risk for oral caries and bad breath.
Solution: Treat your dry mouth. Sip water throughout the day, use a xylitol chewing gum or use a high pH rinse to replace missing saliva. It can help improve multiple facets of your oral health—including your bad breath woes.
Tobacco Use: Using any form of tobacco sets you up for long term oral health issues. It also is almost a guarantee of halitosis in the short term.
Solution: Stop tobacco use. There’s really no way around it; tobacco use is bad for your health. Do yourself a favor and kick the habit.
With a little detective work and some mild to moderate effort, you can kick your bad breath and have the happy, low-stress holiday season you are hoping to enjoy.