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Everyone gets bad breath sometimes. Many things, from the foods you eat to underlying health conditions, can cause bad breath (halitosis). Two of the most potent culinary offenders are garlic and onions, especially when eaten raw.
Onions and garlic are members of the allium family. They’re similar in composition and contain many of the same sulfur compounds.
Sulfur compounds give foods their distinctive flavor. They also release distinctive gasses when cut or mashed and mingle with gas-emitting bacteria, causing scented breath.
Garlic and onion can continue to cause bad breath for hours after a meal. As part of the digestive process, their byproducts are absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to the lungs, giving bad breath an encore.
But bad breath is no reason to avoid garlic and onion. Their health benefits are worth it, and it’s possible to counteract their smelly effect.
If you’re having a particularly garlic-heavy meal, eat apples for dessert or chew on fresh mint leaves.
Much of the bacteria that causes bad breath lives below the gum line and in plaque buildup on teeth. Brushing and flossing after eating onions or garlic can help eliminate odor-causing bacteria as well as food residue.
Using an electric toothbrush can help you to brush below the gum line and reduce plaque. This keeps breath fresher for a longer period of time. It’s also helpful to gently brush the roof of your mouth and your tongue, as far back as a toothbrush will go.
For on-the-go situations, try keeping floss that fits in your wallet. Buy flosscards online.
Chlorine dioxide can help remove plaque, tongue-coating bacteria, and food particles. This is the same ingredient used to purify and improve the taste of outdoor water when camping.
Mouthwash usually works best after brushing and flossing. It’s also important to note the instructions on the bottle to avoid overuse or mouth irritation.
Essential oils can be added to alcohol-based mouthwashes. In addition to freshening breath, some also have antibacterial properties. You can also make your own homemade mouthwash with essential oils and a carrier oil (coconut, sweet almond, or olive).
Essential oils with proven benefits for eliminating bad breath include:
Swish 1 teaspoon of carrier oil with a drop of peppermint oil in your mouth to help get rid of food particles, bacteria, and odor. You can purchase food-grade oils at grocery stores or online. Be sure to watch out for added sugars.
Bacteria also thrive and multiply on the back of the tongue where your toothbrush can’t reach. A white tongue can indicate dead cells, microscopic food particles, and bacteria.
Tongue cleaners, such as tongue brushes and scrapers, can help you reach the very back of your tongue. They’re also effective for removing odor-causing residue.
To use a tongue scraper, start at the back of your tongue and gently scrape forward. This will bring the white residue to the front of your mouth. Continue to rinse and repeat this process until there’s no visible residue on the scraper.
You can use a tongue scraper daily or after eating meals containing garlic or onion.
Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day can be a great strategy to keep bad breath at bay.
This is partially because a dry mouth can increase the production of sulfur, which can lead to bad breath. It can also prevent dehydration and ensure that you’re able to produce enough saliva.
Plus, drinking water or other fluids can also help rinse your mouth to remove any lingering food particles or bacteria, both of which can contribute to odor.
Drink a hot cup of green tea after a meal to temporarily reduce odor until you can get to the bathroom to brush your teeth.
Chewing spearmint gum can temporarily neutralize garlic breath. It also may reduce acid reflux, which can diminish the lingering effects of garlic and onion after digestion.
Garlic breath doesn’t last forever, even if its effects tend to linger.
Plan ahead if you feel like you might be at risk for garlic- or onion-heavy breath. For example, you can avoid eating an onion bagel for breakfast before a job interview.
Alternatively, you can experiment with these home treatments to see which one works for you and take the one that does the trick.