Grooming 101

Cleaning Up Dirty Mouths: How to Fight the Battle Against Bad Breath
By Roshni Mulchandani

When you’re about to lean in and make a move, there’s no bigger turn off than a stinky mouth. It’s no secret: Bad breath is universally unappealing. Go to any continent, time zone or city on the planet, and people will hold their breath if yours stinks. Medically known as halitosis, bad breath is not only is an indication that your mouth may need some attention, but it can also indicate some serious health conditions. Socially, you probably don’t want to be known as “dog breath” or make girls cringe and back off when you’re trying to spit some game. So to help you out, we’ve created a list of culprit foods, other possible causes for bad breath and ways to combat it.

Good Hygiene

The science behind it is really quite simple. Whatever you eat begins its journey in your mouth. The adage “What goes in, must come out” is pretty on point when it comes to oral hygiene: Food is broken down, digested, later absorbed into your bloodstream, eventually carried into your lungs where it is exhaled and then given off in your breath. Therefore, if you eat foods that have strong odors, chewing gum, popping a breath mint or simply brushing your teeth is nothing more than a temporary cover up. The only way the malodor completely disappears is when the foods have been emptied out of the body. This by no means indicates that you shouldn’t take out the good ol’ trustworthy toothbrush and brush your pearly whites. Brushing keeps your teeth clean and healthy and turns your breath minty fresh, but it is just as essential as the most overlooked ritual to preventing bad breath—brushing your tongue. If you’re prone to gagging or feel awkward brushing your tongue, go ask your parents for an old-fashioned jibhi, or tongue scraper (Indian varieties are usually silver, steel or copper), which should do the trick with even more ease than a toothbrush. Adding some alcohol-free mouthwash and flossing to your daily oral rituals can keep foul breath to a minimum. You’d be surprised to know how bacteria and food particles stuck between your teeth can really affect your breath.

Foods that create, prevent and exacerbate plaque
Remember to avoid the obvious: Garlic, certain cheeses and other dairy products also contribute to smelly breath. These foods are high in protein and sulfur, which naturally give off bacteria and contribute to smell breath. But don’t worry about it too much—if you’re both eating garlic, you probably won’t notice it when you’re kissing. For all those carnivores, watch out for the amount of meat you eat, as it too is not a part of the breath-friendly group. Meats are also high in protein and if not properly digested can cause indigestion or stomach pain, which can lead to bad breath. If eating these well-known offenders is inescapable, a quick home remedy is to add chlorophyll-rich parsley to your foods, or finishing a meal by chewing on a spoonful of fennel seeds (like a true Desi), which will temporarily clean your breath.
So now that we’ve mentioned what foods you should avoid or minimize to control your breath, it’s probably good to know what foods are good are actually good for your teeth and breath, promoting a clean and healthy mouth. Drinking tea is a great way to keep your teeth in strong. Teas come in a variety of grades, types, colors and flavors, each doing its respective part to keep your choppers healthy. Black tea contains compounds that help prevent tooth decay, cavities and gum disease while the popular green tea helps keep plaque decay to a minimum. If you really want to kick it up a notch, add some milk to your tea to contribute to your daily source of calcium—just remember to avoid the sugar and substitute with healthier alternatives (like xylitol) for your mouth and body.
Discovered in Finland during the early seventies, xylitol is a natural sugar found in most fruits and veggies. With modern technology of course, it has been extracted from foods where it occurs naturally (berries, corn, oats and plums, to name a few) and is used as a sugar substitute. The natural glucose lends the sugary taste your sweet tooth craves without causing cavities or plaque. In fact, it reduces cavities up to 70 percent and actually prevents plaque. So the next time you’re at a grocery or convenience store looking for some gum, make sure you grab a pack that contains xylitol instead of sugar.


Alcohol consumption, along with stress, can cause digestion problems, which in turn lead to foul breath. Alcohol also dries out saliva in your mouth, which only exacerbates the problem. Drinks and foods rich in sugar not only increase the chances of tooth decay, but also create breeding grounds for bacteria. Nowadays however, with the increase in sugar-free products and drinks available at your local grocery store, this offender can be easily sidelined. A quick fixer is drinking up to eight glasses of water daily to help flush out bacteria in your mouth.

There are many bad-breath offenders, but even more ways to keep your foul mouth in check. The simplest way to keep halitosis far away is by simply increasing your water intake. Drinking as much water as you can, especially after meals will clean out your mouth, increase saliva production and will be death zone to bacteria that cannot live in wet areas. Keeping a strict oral hygiene regimen of brushing, flossing and gargling will not only keep you from resorting to bad habits that can lead to cavities and smelly breath, but it will also rid your mouth of any microbes that are hiding in those nooks and crannies. Following the path to good hygiene will give you all the confidence and ammo to get up close and personal…but don’t be surprised if she makes the move first.

Edited by Maya Champaneri

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