By Naini Setalvad
Bad breath can be a minor but psychologically traumatic condition, says Naini Setalvad, offering various easy measures to heal from it
Bad breath is quite common although frequently the cause is unknown. It leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth, and emanates a terrible odor when you open your month, even ostracizing you in society. To check if you have bad breath, cover your mouth and nose with your hands; exhale and smell.
Often bad breath is nothing more serious than a dirty mouth. Another ground could be plaque; the nearly invisible film of bacteria constantly forming in your mouth. Other causes include an acidic body, constipation, cavities, gum disease, dentures, lung disease, throat infection, a vitamin B or zinc deficiency, liver disease, respiratory tract infections, sinusitis or bronchitis, diabetes, kidney problems; so do not ignore its manifestation. But typically, certain foods can make your mouth smell bad like garlic, onions, meat and fish. Coffee, alcohol, fizzy drinks, and sugar can be bad breath triggers too. Chewing tobacco and smoking too are triggers. Prevent it by rinsing often. Brush your teeth in the morning, and after every meal, especially after consuming milk products, fish and meat. Floss if necessary. Often, the food particles left in tiny gaps between teeth lead to bad breath because of bacterial activity. It’s common sense that stale food rots and smells. In the same way the food particles in your mouth rot causing the breath to stink. Another important point to note is to clean your toothbrush daily and replace it regularly. Ironically, excessive use of alcohol-based mouthwashes can make your mouth very dry, causing bad breath.
Common herbs, spices and seeds used often in your household help fight bad breath. It is no wonder they are served after a meal.
Fennel (saunf): Its aromatic odour makes it a common mouth freshener in India. Dry roasted, stored in airtight containers works best. Have a teaspoon after meals.
Mint (pudina): The most refreshing natural mouth freshener, it contains menthol, a universal ingredient in dental products. Chew on mint leaves and not on the manufactured menthol sweet.
Cardamom (elaichi): The fragrant flavour in cardamom freshens the breath. Chew on a few seeds.
Basil (tulsi): Chew 4-5 fresh basil leaves first thing in the morning to refresh your mouth. Its leaves, sun dried and powdered, can be used for brushing teeth. Mix with mustard oil to make a paste and use as toothpaste. Excellent for dental health and to counteract bad breath.
Fenugreek (methi): seeds also combat bad breath. Soak one teaspoon seeds overnight. Boil, strain and sip on this decoction.
Neem leaves: An ancient Indian remedy for mouth odours. It is antiseptic and antibacterial. Less than a century ago it was common to chew a neem bark instead of using tooth paste or tooth brush. One can make a mouthwash with neem leaves by boiling them in water, straining and cooling the decoction.
Clove is a well tried home remedy for gum infections, toothache and cavities. Its strong aroma helps prevent mouth odours. Suck on a clove after a meal. Coriander seeds are the best solution to battle the odour of onion and garlic. Chew a teaspoon of roasted coriander seeds after meals or boil the same amount in one cup of water for 2-3 minutes. Strain and use the decoction as a mouth wash.
Green tea: The polyphones in it stop mouth bacterial infections and reduces bad breath.
Dill (suva): Chlorophyll, an active compound used in treating dental problems and bad breath, is plentiful in dil. Chew on dried roasted dill seeds after meals or prepare tea with dry crushed seeds.
Cinnamon (dalchini): A small piece of this spice contains volatile oils that help battle a smelly mouth. A tiny piece of this bark chewed after meals destroy mouth bacteria and refresh your breath.
Betel leaf: It is a common habit in India to chew on a betel leaf after meals. This keeps your mouth fresh, aids digestion and prevents bad breath. Rinse your mouth before sleeping with a glass of water drizzled with the juice of half a lemon. If your saliva is acidic, drink lemon water. Washing the tongue with lemon dissolved in water can reduce the acidity in your mouth, making it a less friendly environment for the bacteria to grow. Many people experience “morning breath,” which is the result of reduced saliva flow during sleep that allows acids and other debris to putrefy in the mouth. Brushing and flossing thoroughly before bed, and brushing your teeth and tongue first thing in the morning, will usually eliminate morning breath. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Make sure that you use the right toothbrush, not too hard and not too soft. Remove dentures each night and clean them well before replacing them each morning. Keep your tongue clean too. Visit your dentist regularly.
2 tbsp dil (suva)
2 tbsp fennel (saunf)
1 tbsp carom seeds (ajwain)
Black salt and lemon to taste
About the author : Naini Setalvad is a nutritionist, specializing in lifestyle and immunity disorders. Her foundation, Health For You, throws light on healthy food habits.
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