Ask LH: What Can I Do About My Bad Breath?

Dear Lifehacker, I recently went on a week-log camping trip where I had mistakenly forgotten to pack my toothbrush and toothpaste. It has been a couple days since I returned to civilisation, but I can't help noticing that despite the numerous amount of teeth brushing and mouth washing, the taste of bad breath is still lingering in my mouth. Is this normal? Thanks, Lingering Halitosis

Halitosis picture from Shutterstock

Dear LH (hey, cool initials),

The most common cause of bad breath is sulphur producing bacteria which accumulate on the bits of food left in your mouth and in-between your teeth. Have you tried flossing and brushing your tongue? It could just be that you're not cleaning vigorously enough. Your first step should be to invest in a quality toothbrush designed for full mouth brushing, including the tongue.

While it's not uncommon for odours to linger if left untreated, a smelly mouth that has been vigorously cleaned usually points towards some kind of halitosis-related ailment. The culprit could be tooth decay, gum disease or a sinus infection, to name a few examples.

Whatever's causing your bad breath there are various solutions around that may help to cut down the smell. Some examples include nasal sprays, DIY cinnamon mouthwash, staying hydrated, drinking green tea, regularly chewing gum and avoiding foods with potent aromas. Give a few of these a shot and see if there's any improvement.

As always, if readers have any suggestions of their own that could help LH out, let him know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    Gargle / rinse with warm salt water. Salt helps kill the bacteria that causes the bad breath in the first place.

    Err.. thats not really true, the most common cause dehydration..

    1. Hydrate - drink at least 1, preferably 2 litres of water a day. It sounds daunting, but if you keep a 600mL or 1L bottle of water with you whilst you work and sip from it regularly
    2. Brush your teeth thoroughly to remove bacteria.
    3. Use an OraBush ( on your tongue in the morning to remove the bacteria.
    Note: The gag reflex subsides... I promise.

    PS. Onion and garlic are actually known to 'sweeten' the breath. This is due to their antibacterial action. It is a myth that they add to bad breath.

    Last edited 18/07/13 8:33 pm

      PS. Onion and garlic are actually known to 'sweeten' the breath. This is due to their antibacterial action. It is a myth that they add to bad breath.

      Not a myth dude. Try kissing someone after they've had onions or garlic in any of their food. You can smell it and it aint easy to get rid of, especially if it was raw.

    Most cases (85–90%), bad breath originates in the mouth, sinus and throat. The intensity of bad breath differs during the day, due to eating certain foods (such as garlic, onions, meat, fish, and cheese), obesity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. Since the mouth is exposed to less oxygen and is inactive during the night, the odour is usually worse upon awakening ("morning breath"). Bad breath may be transient, often disappearing following eating, brushing one's teeth, flossing, or rinsing with specialized mouthwash.


    1, Tongue, A common location is the tongue. Tongue bacteria produce malodorous compounds and fatty acids, and account for 60 to 70% of all cases of mouth-related bad breath. Methods used against bad breath, such as mints, mouth sprays, mouthwash or gum, only temporarily mask the odours created by the bacteria on the tongue, but cannot cure bad breath because they do not remove the source of the bad breath.

    Cleaning the tongue - Many companies promote tongue scrapers as a bad breath cure however the bacteria on the tongue can’t be removed with a scraper or brush as they live between the taste buds. Use a tongue scrapper to reduce the food source for bacteria but don’t expect it to cure bad breath. The method of stopping bad breath from the tongue involves rebalancing the bacteria load. Once tongue bacteria are in balance bad breath will cease. For this complex procedure you’ll need to consult Oraltech Labs guidelines.

    2. Mouth, There are over 600 types of bacteria found in the average mouth. Other parts of the mouth may also contribute to the overall odour, but are not as common as the back of the tongue. These locations are, in order of descending prevalence: inter-dental and sub-gingival niches, faulty dental work, food-impaction areas in between the teeth, abscesses, and unclean dentures. To fix you will need a dentist to examine your teeth and repair any faults found. Or use Oraltech Labs Unusual Causes Of Bad Breath Guide.

    3. Gum disease, advanced periodontal disease is a common cause. Waste products from the anaerobic bacteria growing below the gum line (sub gingival) have a foul smell and have been clinically demonstrated to produce a very intense bad breath. To fix remove the tartar or hard plaque and friable tissue with a soft bristle tooth brush angled on the gum line. This has been shown to improve mouth odour considerably.

    4. Nose, in this occurrence, the air exiting the nostrils has a pungent odour that differs from the oral odour. Nasal odour may be due to sinus infections , foreign bodies & commonly Post Nasal Drip. To fix this you will need to flush your sinuses with salt water. It’s very difficult. Use Oraltech Labs guidance to properly clear all sinus cavities.

    5. Tonsils small bits of calcified matter in tonsillar crypts called tonsilloliths that smell extremely foul when released and can cause bad breath. To fix use warm to hot salt water mix to break the stones down or use a water pic to dislodge them. This topic is covered in depth in the Oraltech Labs Program.

    6. Stomach, very uncommon source of bad breath. The esophagus is a closed and collapsed tube, and continuous flow (as opposed to a simple burp) of gas or putrid substances from the stomach indicates a health problem—such as reflux serious enough to be bringing up stomach contents or a fistula between the stomach and the esophagus. To fix use Oraltech Labs Guide to cure bad breath caused by GERD & Acid Reflux.


    1. Gently clean the tongue surface twice daily; that can be achieved using a tooth brush, tongue cleaner or tongue brush/scraper to wipe off the bacterial biofilm, debris, and mucus. Scraping or otherwise damaging the tongue should be avoided, and scraping of the V-shaped row of taste buds found at the extreme back of the tongue should also be avoided. Brushing a small amount of antibacterial mouth rinse or tongue gel onto the tongue surface will further inhibit bacterial action.

    2. Eating a healthy breakfast with rough foods helps clean the very back of the tongue.

    3. Chewing gum: Since dry-mouth can increase bacterial build-up and cause or worsen bad breath, chewing sugarless gum can help with the production of saliva, and thereby help to reduce bad breath. Chewing may help particularly when the mouth is dry, or when one cannot perform oral hygiene procedures after meals.

    4. Gargling right before bedtime with an effective mouthwash.

    5. Maintaining proper oral hygiene, including daily tongue cleaning, brushing, flossing, and periodic visits to dentists and hygienists. Flossing is particularly important in removing rotting food debris and bacterial plaque from between the teeth, especially at the gum line.

    To Your good health, Dr Lisa Evens. M.D, D.D.S

    If none of the above works for you just use the Oraltech Program by visiting -

      Good information however think that references to the external site are advertising your product/services and seems to be rampant in the article.

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