If someone tells you (or drops a hint) that you have bad breath, take a quick inventory of your mouth. Is it moist and well-wetted with saliva? Or is your palate dry, sticky and uncomfortable? If it's the latter, you may be suffering from dry mouth.
Having a desiccated, moistureless mouth is no fun at all. Not only do bacteria grow faster on a dry palate, but they also break down tooth enamel quicker and crank out more odor molecules. This means that having a dry mouth can leave you stinking in just minutes.
Plenty of things can cause this problem. Thirst, nervousness, heavy breathing, strenuous exercise, smoking, breathing cold air or even talking too much can all cause your saliva to evaporate, leaving you with rancid-smelling halitosis.
When you discover that your mouth is parched, you have a number of treatment options available to you. Some of them will work wonderfully, others won't do much and a few may actually make the problem worse.
Here's the rundown, complete with effectiveness ratings in parentheses:
- Water (good). If a dry mouth is missing moisture, it stands to reason that water will get the job done - and, to an extent, it does. Drinking water won't eliminate odor, but as a preventative method, it's good for reducing your risk of dry mouth in the first place.
- Artificial saliva (good). This type of product also does nothing for odor, but it can wet your palate quickly. Since artificial saliva usually comes by prescription only, it's not a feasible measure for anything less than the severest cases of dry mouth.
- Alcohol-based mouthwash (bad). In no way is using this stuff a good idea. Alcohol-based rinses contain harsh chemicals, irritants and dyes. Typically, they just mask a scent rather than eliminating it. And worst of all, the alcohol actually dries out your mouth!
- Alcohol-free specialty rinses (excellent). Minus the alcohol and synthetic chemicals, an all-natural, oxygenating mouthwash can really do the trick. A study published in the journal Gerodontology confirms it. Its authors found that rinses containing xylitol, aloe vera and other natural ingredients eliminated dry mouth and oral odor quickly and effectively.
- Specialty mouth-wetting lozenges (excellent). These also get the job done, and they taste great!