What are the remedies for bad breath

This helps against bad breath

Bad breath comes in many scents: sometimes it smells foul, sometimes fishy, ​​sometimes sour and sometimes even fecal from the mouth. But no matter how it comes along, bad breath is extremely embarrassing for those affected and quite unpleasant for others. Fortunately, there is seldom a disease that needs treatment behind it, in many cases oral hygiene and breath fresheners from the pharmacy help. Read in our guide how bad breath develops and how you can fight it.

Embarrassing and often unrecognized

Bad breath is common, every fourth German has more or less to do with it. This is also reflected in the myriad of preparations, waters and tips with which it is to be distributed. But not everyone affected knows about their own bad breath. On the one hand, the nose is used to its own smells, and on the other hand, most people avoid pointing out the problem to those affected.

Self-test with coffee filter

If you don't know exactly whether you have bad breath, a self-test can help: Create a cavity in front of your mouth with your hands and breathe into it, or alternatively breathe into a small plastic bag. Then stick your nose in the exhaled air and sniff it. You can also rub the base of the tongue with a coffee filter or a blotter and smell it. The easiest, of course, is to breathe on a person you trust and ask about the smell.

Tip: Halimeters, i.e. odor testers, are also available for personal use. The smartphone-sized devices use a gas sensor to detect the concentrations of sulphurous gases and work in a similar way to the devices that doctors use to analyze odors in the air they breathe.

Homemade causes

In most cases, the cause of bad breath is harmless, but it should be found anyway. Because the more precisely you know where the bad smell is coming from, the more sustainably it can be combated. Overall, the causes of bad breath are extremely diverse and range from food to sulfur-producing oral bacteria to kidney or metabolic diseases. Typical "homemade" causes of bad breath are:

  • Inadequate oral hygiene. Especially in the furrows of the tongue, coatings of food particles and flaky epithelial cells easily form. If these deposits are not removed regularly, they form an ideal breeding ground for anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria are the secret producers of the odor: they decompose the organic material, which then creates the foul-smelling sulfur compounds.
  • Decreased salivation. If there is no “mouthwash”, food residues, bacteria and their products are less thoroughly washed away. Saliva production is reduced, for example, under stress and excitement, but also typically when sleeping at night, whereby sleeping with your mouth open further increases the drying out of the oral cavity.
  • Food and beverage. Leek, garlic and onions are the main contributors, but smoking, alcohol, coffee and high meat consumption can also cause unpleasant traces of smell.
  • Fasting or starving. Here, the lack of carbohydrates upsets the metabolism and ketone bodies are formed, which smell of acetone.

Note: Medicines can also cause bad breath, mainly by reducing saliva production. Typical representatives are certain antidepressants, high blood pressure medication and bisphosphonates for osteoporosis.

When there's an illness behind it

Sometimes bad breath has a physical cause. The trigger is mainly found in the oral cavity or the ear, nose and throat area. The most common causes are for example

Diseases outside of the mouth, nose and throat area are much less likely to cause unpleasant smells in the breath. Possible causes are

  • Heartburn, reflux disease, stomach ulcers
  • Intestinal diverticulum
  • Poorly controlled diabetes, the breath smells like acetone when starving or fasting
  • Severe liver disease, the breath smells of ammonia
  • Kidney disease with a breath odor of urine
  • Pneumonia with purulent smelling breath.
General measures against bad breath

Even if the dentist is a good point of contact for suspected bad breath, not everyone likes to go there straight away. Thanks to many simple measures and home remedies, nothing speaks against attempting self-treatment. That could help:

  • Review your eating habits. Be sparing with onions, garlic and other odor-causing foods, drink enough water, reduce your alcohol and coffee consumption and eat less meat.
  • If you are a smoker, try to smoke less (or stop smoking right away).
  • Don't fast, eat regularly.
  • Avoid stress.
  • Pay attention to meticulous oral hygiene, not only clean your teeth, but also the spaces between your teeth regularly. Use dental floss or interdental cleaner for this.
  • Take good care of your dentures. Special toothbrushes with a small head and interdental brushes help with brackets.

Tip: The best remedy for bad breath is the tongue scraper or tongue brush. Use it to scrub your tongue thoroughly, starting at the base of the tongue and working your way towards the tip of the tongue.

First aid with tried and tested home remedies

Home remedies can also help - at least temporarily - against bad breath. If you have a sour halitosis and taste, chewing coffee beans should help, and rinsing with lime or lemon water will also cover up bad breath. Overly active sulfur-producing bacteria should be kept in check with lactic acid bacteria from natural yogurt. Smokers and garlic fans can briefly reduce their bad breath with a solution of a teaspoon of baking soda and a glass of water. Olive oil binds bad smelling substances and is also said to kill bacteria. If you like olive oil, put a tablespoon in your mouth and stir the oil back and forth in it for a few minutes.

Tip: Spices and herbs also offer first aid against bad breath. Just chew a few leaves of parsley or a few thin slices of ginger and the bad smell will go away.

Fresh breath products

The many commercially available mouthwashes are also particularly popular in the fight against bad breath. There are masking and neutralizing representatives. The former contain menthol or mint, for example, and temporarily mask the bad breath, but cannot do anything about its cause.

Neutralizing mouthwashes, on the other hand, intervene somewhat deeper in what is happening in the mouth. Due to their antibacterial effect, chlorhexidine gluconate and cetylpyridinium chloride reduce the level of bacteria, which means that less malodorous sulfur compounds are formed. Frequently used representatives are for example

  • Chlorhexamed®Fluid, Meridol®Med CHX and Parodur Liquid mouthwash (with chlorhexidine)
  • Listerine Smart Kidz, One Drop Only®Mouthwash Effektiv Classic or Sensodyne Pro enamel mouthwash (contain cetylpyridinium chloride).

Solutions containing zinc or tin oxidize the free thiol groups of the odorous substances and thereby reduce the odor. They include Elmex, for example® Tooth enamel protection Professional Tooth Rinse and Meridol®Mouthwash.

No long-term use of antibacterial solutions!

However, highly concentrated chlorhexidine solutions should not be used long-term, as the tongue and teeth can discolour and changes in taste perception can occur. In addition, the beneficial bacteria are also reduced, which leads to a disruption of the healthy oral flora. Long-term use of cetylpyridinium chloride is also not recommended, as it can lead to nausea and stomach problems. It is best to ask your pharmacist which mouth rinse is right for you.

Tip: Chewing gum also helps against bad breath by increasing the formation of saliva. If peppermint is also added, bad breath is masked. Important: Those who freshen their breath with chewing gum should use sugar-free products.

If nothing helps: Off to a specialist

If the bad breath persists despite general measures, home remedies and mouthwashes, a trip to the dentist is announced (at the latest). He can check whether the source of the problem is in the mouth and take appropriate countermeasures. If the dentist does not find what they are looking for, further research into the cause must be carried out, for example by an ear, nose and throat specialist or an internist. In the meantime, there are also special bad breath consultation hours (so-called halitosis consultation hours) in which the bad breath is analyzed, causes sought and treatment options discussed.

Source: Dr. Sabine Fischer, DAZ 2019, No. 43, p. 36


Dr. med. Sonja Kempinski | last changed on 07:29