It's not always easy to get rid of bad breath. You brush and brush and brush, and the odor can still be there. Sometimes, halitosis seems to be (and usually is) coming from your throat itself, where your tonsils are coated in smelly goo. What can you do about this? Even when desperate, don't mix up your own oral rinses. Instead, use specialty, alcohol-free mouthwash.
Don't get us wrong: You can make your own home-brewed halitosis treatments. Just don't expect them to work.
Handmade mouthwashes give bacteria a leg up
Recently, the instructional website Lifehacker suggested that people with oral odor use cinnamon to freshen their breath, referring back to a post made on the do-it-yourself site Tipnut.
The post explained that, to make this home-brewed rinse, all you have to do is boil five sticks of cinnamon in a cup of water. After five minutes, removing the sticks leaves you with a pungent brown liquid that the site suggested keeping in a mason jar.
Before we go on, think to yourself: Does this sound like a good idea?
In all likelihood, something about this recommendation (i.e. skipping specialty mouthwashes in favor of cinnamon-water in an old jar) should sound odd.
First, and most importantly, it won't work. Studies, like one published in the Journal of Clinical Dentistry, have proven that the compounds in cinnamon don't, by themselves, do anything to kill odor-causing bacteria. If anything, putting ground cinnamon bark in your mouth will just mask your bad breath for a little while.
Second, ancient humans used cinnamon to temporarily sweeten their breath, but we've moved on since then. Humanity has spent centuries developing powerful alcohol-free mouthwashes that neutralize odor and kill microbes. If cinnamon works better, why don't we use it more?
Finally, cinnamon-water is hardly even cost-effective. The remedy will cost you around $2 per cup (mainly for the cinnamon sticks), whereas a specialty mouthwash runs just a few bucks more.
Ditch the spices and stick to the specialty stuff
The problem here is probably one of internet saturation. There are millions of websites claiming to offer simple, at-home solutions for halitosis. Most of them are based on rumors, hearsay, speculation and word of mouth.
So an instructional website tells you to gargle cinnamon-water. Its source is another instructional site. Should you believe it?
You'll notice that such suggestions (e.g. chew cloves, nibble on parsley, gargle vodka) invariably come from some DIY blog or entertainment news site. They never originate at, say, the websites for the American Dental Association or the Mayo Clinic (nor do they link to either site).
This means that it pays to exercise a little caution whenever reading about home-brewed "remedies" for halitosis.
Seriously, check out the Mayo Clinic website. For "home remedies" for bad breath, it suggests brushing, flossing, scraping your tongue, cleaning your dentures, drinking water, avoiding alcohol, eschewing coffee and seeing a dentist.
That's it. Nothing about brewing up a cinnamon slurry.
However, the Mayo Clinic's primary recommendations for halitosis are to use specialty mouthrinses and toothpastes. It specifically points to specialty alcohol-free mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine and zinc, which "can prevent production of odors that cause bad breath" and "are good at neutralizing odor-causing bacterial byproducts."
So, when your oral funk gets so bad it can clear the room, don't turn to the spice rack. Instead, do what's proven to work, and gargle a specialty mouthwash