It’s impossible to ignore a person who has bad breath. And it is painfully embarrassing to find out that “you” have it. This is especially true if you find out that a current or potential lover is avoiding you because of this condition.
The problem is that the causes are easily overlooked. There is no pain during the early and mid stages of periodontal disease, and it’s difficult to determine if you have an unpleasant breath unless you know what the subtle symptoms are. Most people can’t smell their own breath, or they get used to it, so it’s not easy to determine whether it is bad.
Although having fresh breath is important to most people it’s hard to face the possibility that yours might smell like a rotting garbage dump. Judging by the number of fresh breath products, many people apparently rely on these items to ensure that they don’t have bad breath. They do a fair job, but only temporarily. If you have periodontal disease, cavities, or other dental problems your efforts to mask the odor with rinses, sprays, gums, and mints will only partially cover the smell of bad breath while aggravating and perpetuating the causes.
Before we get to the protocol for fresh breath and healthy teeth and gums, I need to cover two of the leading causes of bad breath. They are periodontal disease and tobacco use. (Don’t worry this won’t be another sermon about the dangers of smoking, but rather an inspirational message for finally quitting.) I’ll follow this with a brief review of the health benefits of good oral health. Then we’ll get into the protocol.
One of the leading causes of bad breath is periodontal disease. Periodontology is the specialty of dentistry that deals with the supporting structures (bones and gums) of teeth and the diseases and conditions that affect them. Here are the symptoms of periodontal disease.
- Red, swollen, or tender gums.
- Bleeding while brushing or flossing.
- Receding gums.
- Loose teeth.
- Persistent bad taste in your mouth.
- Bad breath (dah!)
If you have any of these symptoms, I strongly recommend that you see a dentist or periodontist immediately.
The leading cause of periodontal disease and bad breath is… you guessed it, smoking! It doesn’t matter if you smoke tobacco or chew it the outcome is the same.
Not only is smoking a serious risk to your health, but it can also damage your teeth and gums (periodontal disease). This damage is what causes bad breath along with the nasty residue of stale tobacco smell in your mouth.
One of the insidious things about smoking is a person’s inability to notice that they have smoker’s breath. I was truly shocked when I discovered how bad the smell was after I quit smoking. I was absolutely disgusted by the breath of heavy smokers and amazed at how oblivious they were of it.
Then there’s the issue of the staining that smoking and chewing causes. The staining was one of the major motivations for me to quit smoking and give up coffee.
If you want fresh breath and white teeth there is only one choice: quit smoking! If you want some guidance and inspiration on how to quit this and other bad habits, check out these books.
Health Benefits of Good Oral Health
The health benefits of good oral health are well documented. Many scientific reports state that gum disease is linked to several serious health issues including heart disease & stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, osteoporosis, and pregnancy problems.
Those are some serious health problems. Putting the bad breath issue aside, these potential problems should be enough incentive to make you want to have excellent oral health.
Protocol for Fresh Breath & Healthy Teeth and Gums
The following protocol will probably seem overwhelming to you at first but here is what you get if you follow it. Within a short period of time (4-6 weeks est.), you will have fresher breath, whiter teeth, healthier gums, and a reduced likelihood of getting cavities. In the long term, you can greatly improve or eliminate your bad breath, gum disease, and susceptibility to cavities.
Some people are more prone to gum disease and cavities than others are. So you’ll need to adjust the frequency and precision of your cleaning protocol to fit your particular situation.
Get Regular Dental Checkups
Getting a checkup with a reputable dentist or periodontist is the first step in eliminating bad breath and attaining excellent oral health. If you have a problem or if you haven’t seen a dentist for over a year, you should do it right away. It’s advisable to get a checkup once a year.
If you are seeing a dentist and a periodontist, I don’t know of any reason to get a checkup by both of them every year unless you have problems in both areas –- teeth and gums. If your problem is entirely periodontal, just postpone seeing your dentist until you need to. Your periodontist will recognize any problems needing a dentist’s attention.
Find & Select the Best Dentist for You!
One way to find a good dentist is by asking family and friends for their recommendations. Another method is to ask professionals that you do business with like your medical doctor, financial advisor, or accountant.
If you come across a dental office that has several dentists and you don’t know which one to choose, here’s what to do. When you call to inquire about their services and pricing, tell them what qualities you like in a dentist and then ask them to suggest one. You can use the same strategies in selecting a hygienist. I also tell them that I like a dentist with a positive attitude who has a superior knowledge of the latest dental procedures. For a hygienist, I ask for one who is meticulous, thorough, and patient.
Get the Best Deal
There is a wide difference between what dentists charge for their services. To get the best deal, call at least three dentists and ask them these questions.
- Do you have any new patient specials? Be on the lookout for specials throughout your research period.
- How much do you charge for the initial exam and annual checkups? There is no need for a dentist to do checkups more often than once a year unless you have a serious problem that requires follow-up. Be leery of any dentist who demands that you get an exam and x-rays every 6 months because in most cases this is not needed.
- How much do you charge for x-rays for the initial exam and annual checkups? The charge of annual checkups should be less.
- How much do you charge for cleanings with the hygienist? NOTE: A hygienist will usually spend more time cleaning your teeth than a doctor will.
- If you have a specific need at the time you call like a cavity, chipped tooth, or another issue, be sure to ask for an estimated cost on that as well.
- When you go in for your initial exam, ask the dentist for a written estimate on any additional work that you want done. Once you receive the estimate, don’t be afraid to negotiate the price down. If the work is extensive and/or it’s not covered by insurance, it’s a good idea to get two more estimates from other dentists. That way you can ensure you’re getting a good deal, you’re in the best negotiating position, and you’re acquiring as much information as you can.
- If you don’t have insurance, ask for their cash price. Most dentists offer a discount if you pay cash and don’t have insurance. Cash doesn’t mean that you literally have to give them cash. It just means that they don’t have to process your insurance claim which saves them money. Also, look into joining a discount dental plan. These plans provide savings of 10% to 60% on most dental procedures and more!
Get Regular Cleanings with a Hygienist
Getting your teeth cleaned on a regular basis is the key to having fresh breath and excellent oral health. If you have bad breath this procedure is crucial to getting rid of it.
You should have your teeth cleaned every 6 months at a minimum. If you have had or if you are susceptible to periodontal disease, cavities, or any other dental problems you should have your teeth cleaned every 3-4 months. Once you get your particular problem under control, there is a possibility that you could reduce this frequency a bit, but never less than every 4-6 months.
If you can find a good hygienist, each visit will be a pleasant experience with minimal discomfort, if any, and you’ll have squeaky clean teeth and fresh breath at the end. And if you do it at the frequency I recommended, you won’t have to worry about having bad breath.
Because seeing a hygienist in more important in my particular situation than seeing a dentist –- I get my teeth cleaned every 4 months and I never get cavities -– I’ve actually switched dentists because I was unhappy with both of his hygienists. If your dentist or periodontist has several hygienists, do not be afraid to try another one if you are unhappy. I did this twice at an office that had about 10 hygienists. I eventually found one who I really liked much more than the first two.
Clean Your Tongue with a Tongue Cleaner
The tongue is a major contributor to bad breath if it isn’t regularly cleaned. And it must be done properly to eliminate the source of the odor. The secret is to reach back as far as you can with the scraper. You might feel a mild choking sensation in the beginning, but eventually, that will go away.
While periodontal pockets (created by gum disease) and cavities harbor harmful, odor-causing organisms like bacteria, the tongue is a collector of them. The tongue not only attracts organisms and other material in your mouth, it also collects the junk that is expelled from your lungs and sometimes from your digestive system. As you breathe in various microscopic particles, oxygen, and other gases during the day, your lungs work to expel the bad stuff especially during physical exertion and while you sleep. That’s one of the reasons you have bad breath when you wake up in the morning and after exercising.
If you don’t clean your tongue on a regular basis, all the bad breath causing materials simply accumulate, grow, and produce more odor. This bad stuff also aggravates and perpetuates periodontal and dental problems.
So you can see how important it is to clean your tongue in order to have fresh breath. To get the best results, and remove the possibility of having bad breath, I strongly recommend that you clean your tongue with a tongue cleaner at these times.
- The first time you visit the bathroom in the morning. Follow this by rinsing out your mouth thoroughly with water, or better yet with mouthwash (non-alcohol).
- Before each teeth brushing session.
- After all high exertion activities like exercise, sports, physical work, and sex.
- After oral sex. (It had to be said.)
Tongue cleaners (also called tongue scrapers) can be found in the dental section of most stores.
Use an Interdental Brush to Reach Isolated Areas
An interdental brush is a tiny tapered or cylinder shaped brush that you insert into a handle or it comes pre-installed with a handle that is usually much smaller. This miniature brush is used to reach areas between your teeth that you cannot access with a toothbrush or floss. It is in these hard to reach areas where the causes of bad breath occur.
Examples of these locations would be areas where you have braces, bridges, attached double crowns, and implants. Since it is particularly important to keep these areas clean to preserve these structures, it is important to take advantage of the interdental brush to accomplish this task.
Interdental brushes (also called an interproximal or proxy brush) can be found in the dental section of most stores.
Use Dental Floss Daily
If you think about it, the only way to clean “between” your teeth is with dental floss. There is simply no other way to get the job done. The areas between your teeth are where the majority of the problems occur because those who are too lazy and/or too ignorant to floss frequently neglect it. And when it comes to bad breath, this is one of the leading causes.
So flossing becomes a key component in the formula for fresh breath. But in order for it to do any good, it must be done properly. Quick, careless flossing does little good. There are no shortcuts but there is a way to make it much easier to do.
After you have learned how to floss properly by watching yourself in the mirror and through instructions by your hygienist, you can do your flossing in front of the television! It might be a little awkward at first, but once you get used to it you’ll be giving yourself a thorough flossing while enjoying your favorite TV program. I’ve been doing it for years and it works great. I also clean a couple of areas with my interdental brush during this time.
Use a Power Toothbrush
The difference between using a regular toothbrush and a power toothbrush in terms of efficiency and level of technology is like the difference between using a horse or a military fighter jet to get from San Francisco to New York. This is an extreme comparison, but it’s absolutely true.
The ability of a power toothbrush to clean your teeth and stimulate your gums is ridiculously superior to a regular toothbrush. If you brushed your teeth for 3 hours straight, you’d still fall vastly short in the cleaning ability of a power toothbrush. At 6,000 to 30,000 strokes per minute, the superiority of a power toothbrush is unquestionable.
In order to eliminate and prevent bad breath, it must be used properly, however. Answer. Read the instructions carefully!
Power toothbrushes can be found in the dental or small appliance section of most stores.
I’ve been using the Sonicare for years and have had phenomenal results. My hygienists are always amazed at how clean my teeth are. I attribute this, in part, to my use of the Sonicare. One of the best things about the Sonicare is their outstanding warranty and customer service. The Sonicare comes with a two-year warranty. I’ve had them instantly replace two of my units at the slightest hint of a problem at no charge to me including shipping. They just shipped me a new one without requiring that I return the old one. I loved it.
Use an Oral Irrigator (also called a water flosser)
An oral irrigator is able to clean areas that no other dental cleaning product can access. These areas are below the gum line and between teeth that are hard to access where food particles get trapped, plaque accumulates, and harmful, odor-causing bacteria grows.
When it comes to bad breath, these are the areas where the odor cause problems occur. Therefore, if you want fresh breath it is imperative that you keep these areas clean. Periodontal pockets and other troublesome areas can heal if you keep them clean! An oral irrigator can do this where no other dental cleaning device can.
I am always amazed when several food particles wash into the sink as I am using this appliance even though I have already completed every step of the protocol. This shows the tremendous value of this cleaning tool.
The oral irrigator fills in the last remaining gap in the protocol for having teeth and gums that are as close to perfectly clean as possible.
Oral irrigators can be found in the dental or small appliance section of most stores.
I’ve been using a Waterpik for a number of years now. It has made a tremendous difference in helping me maintain excellent oral health. The Waterpik also has a two-year warranty and excellent customer service. I’ve had them quickly replace two of them near the end of the warranty.
Keep in mind that I am very diligent when it comes to warranties. I keep track of when they end. If I detect the slightest problem during the warranty period, I contact the manufacturer’s customer service department. I’ve had an extraordinary amount of success in using a strategy that I developed for getting the most from warranties. I describe it in an article on this site entitled, “How to Get the Most from Warranties.”
Use Mouth Wash & Other Dental Rinses
There are many good mouthwashes and dental rinse products continuously coming onto the market. I think it’s a good idea to complete the protocol with a quality mouthwash and/or dental rinse. Quality doesn’t mean that it has to be expensive.
I have found that the generic and store brands offered by Walmart (Equate) and other stores have the same ingredients as the heavily advertised products. There is one ingredient you should avoid — alcohol! It burns and dries out your mouth. It also makes you want to spit it out right away.
It’s important that you keep swishing the solution in your mouth for several minutes. Just swishing it around for a second or two does little good.
Be Diligent About Frequency
I go through the entire protocol twice a day. I do it once in the morning after breakfast and once in the evening before I go to bed.
In addition, I clean my tongue first thing in the morning and after I do any exercise. I usually follow this with a quick brushing with my Sonicare.
If I have a meeting or special engagement scheduled, I use my tongue cleaner, Sonicare, and Waterpik just before I leave to ensure that my breath is as fresh as possible.
The number of times you go through the entire protocol on a daily basis should be based on the condition of your teeth and gums and your propensity for having dental and/or periodontal problems.
I strongly recommend going through the protocol at least once a day, but preferably twice. If you only do it once, I recommend at least one more power toothbrush cleaning at the other end of the day.
The best way to make sure that you don’t have bad breath is to remain consistent in going through the protocol every day.
After you’ve followed this protocol for a while, you’ll start to whiz right through it. And once you notice that you have fresher breath and healthier teeth and gums you’ll happily complete the protocol every day.
To your fresh breath and bright smile. 🙂