So you have halitosis. What are you going to do about it? Will you brush your teeth, floss, rinse your mouth out with water or pop a mint? These methods may work, and, in the case of the first two, will certainly improve your oral health a bit, but are they the optimal way to get rid of bad breath?
A team of Dutch researchers recently analyzed years' worth of medical studies in order to determine which methods, if any, are the best for busting bad breath, both immediately and long term.
The group, which hails from Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands, determined that essentially any specialty breath freshening product that neutralizes volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), or kills or replaces bacteria, is likely to reduce oral odor.
They also noted that substances that contain VSCs, such as garlic, onions, leeks, certain meats, alcohol and tobacco products, are almost guaranteed to cause bad breath, a conclusion that probably went without saying but is still a vital reminder.
HealthDay News recently published a list of a few simple things that individuals can do to reduce their risk of halitosis. These included seeing a dentist, avoiding smelly foods and tobacco, and chewing sugar-free gum.
How do these methods measure up? According to the Dutch group, not especially well. Seeing a dentist is critical, but it happens infrequently enough that it is hardly a solution for oral odor in the moment. Avoiding certain foods may help, but individuals should not have to, since many bad breath-causing items, like garlic, are otherwise quite good for you.
That leaves chewing sugarless gum. The meta-study, which appeared in the journal Oral Diseases, found that gum may temporarily relieve oral odor by stimulating the production of saliva in your mouth. More moisture equals fewer odor-causing microbes.
That said, the team added that "chewing of a gum without any active ingredient reduced halitosis only modestly," indicating that only specialty breath freshening gums can do the trick.
And as for the treatments that work best? Dutch scientists found that VSC-neutralizing substances containing chlorhexidine or zinc seemed to do well, as did hydrogen peroxide and certain oxidizing agents.
The group summarized their findings by saying that most heavily scented products, like those that rely on mint, simply mask bad breath, and even then for just two or three hours.
On the other hand, treatments that attack bacteria, like moisturizing rinses and oral care probiotics, can be significantly more effective in ridding the mouth of microorganisms and the odors they cause.