The US dental industry is now estimated to be worth an astonishing $126 billion per year. It’s no secret that paying to see the dentist can be expensive at the best of time, but paying for unnecessary services is really just flushing money down the plughole.

Bad breath is surprisingly common, even in today’s world of medical advancements, with up to half of the adult population suffering from questionable breath in occasion. What’s more, while historically the sufferers of bad breath were seen as lacking in dental hygiene, we now know that a whole host of other factors can impact the breath too.

While it always pays to have a thorough dental check-up if you’re worried about malodorous breath, just to be certain that tooth decay is not to blame, there are also a range of natural steps that can be taken to prevent – and even address – bad breath.

If you’d like to keep your breath fresh while simultaneously minimizing your chemical exposure then here are some steps that will help…

First – A Biology Lesson

Most cases of bad breath are caused by bacteria growing in the mouth. While the human body is home to a wide range of different micro-organisms, it is the group known as “sulphur producing” bacteria which are primarily responsible for bad breath. These bacteria live in the mouth, feeding on protein, and producing their unpleasant odour as they do so.

The key to keeping your breath fresh in a natural manner is therefore to keep these bacteria under control. Here’s exactly how to do it…

Maintain an Effective Oral Care Routine

The first step in keeping oral bacteria at bay is to clean your mouth thoroughly at least twice a day. This cleaning regime can be highly effective at reducing bacterial load – and hence keeping your breath fresh. The very same process can also minimize cavities and other problems which require expensive dental care.

An effective oral care routine can be thought of like a tripod, with each of the three “legs” being of equal importance to keep the tripod balanced.

Brush Twice Daily

The first leg of the tripod is regular brushing. This should be carried out at least twice a day, and for around two minutes per session.

Many standard toothpastes can contain a range of chemicals which can cause issues for some individuals. Possibly the most common of these is known as “sodium lauryl sulphate” or SLS for short.

This is a “frothing” agent which gives most standard toothpastes their satisfying bubbles. Most experts agree that it has little impact in the overall cleaning ability of any given toothpaste. At the same, cases exist of users finding that SLS causes swelling or irritation in their mouths, so for a more natural cleaning process consider selecting an SLS-free toothpaste.

Floss Regularly

It isn’t enough to just brush your pearly-whites. While brushing is a solid start, it is important to appreciate that brushing alone fails to get into the cracks and crevices between teeth, potentially leaving numerous food particles for bacteria to feed on.

Using dental floss, tape or interdental brushes (depending on your dentition) offers an opportunity to physically flush these particles away, leaving your mouth cleaner and fresher.

Ideally, flossing should be carried out as frequently as brushing, rather than being confined as an occasional “treat” for your mouth.

Scrape Your Tongue

It is interesting to note that a number of studies have identified the tongue as the primary source of bad breath. The tongue possesses a range of “pits” in which bacteria can congregate. Worse, many food particles remain at the back of the tongue after eating. The combination of both home and food for sulphur-producing bacteria makes for a “perfect storm” that must be battled.

It is important, therefore, to regularly scrape your tongue properly to help keep these so-called “tongue coverings” under control. As this is a physical process of scraping it can be seen as chemical-free and natural for the body.

Consider Health Impacts

Once you have an effective oral care routine in place, the next step to consider for keeping your breath fresh naturally is your overall health.

If your breath seems to have declined recently, yet your dentist has reported no oral problems, it is wise to consider any recent changes to your diet or your general health. Surprisingly everything from acid reflux to liver problems right through to even excessive hunger can all impact the breath.

If in doubt, therefore, consider any recent changes you have made to your lifestyle and seek a full health-check from your doctor. If you’re constantly downing breath spray then a quick visit to the doctor may be enough to stop the problem in its tracks.

Stay Hydrated

One of the more interesting causes of questionable breath is general dehydration. As we eat and drink we not only flush away excess food particles, but we also help to moderate the pH in our mouths. Both these aspects can have a positive impact on the breath, making it harder for bacteria to grow.

A dry mouth, therefore, can be a major cause of bad breath, at least in the short term. Indeed, it is this lack of fluid in the palette which is a major cause of so-called “morning breath”, which normally goes away after cleaning your teeth and having a drink. Quite simply the inactivity and lack of fluid in your mouth has allowed sulphur-producing bacteria to grow uncontrolled throughout the night.

If in doubt, then, try to drink more pH-neutral fluids. Water is best. If you find that you’re still suffering from a dry mouth on occasion then an oral moisturising spray can help to adjust the problem in a natural and gentle way.

Chew Herbs

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that a number of herbs have proven benefits for keeping the breath fresh. What is perhaps rather odd is that we willingly feed a range of herbs to pets to keep their breath fresh, yet forget to do the same ourselves!

Fresh leaves of mint or parsley are two of the very best. Consider growing some potted herbs on your kitchen windowsill so they’re always to hand before you head out in the morning. There is also some evidence to suggest that eating citrus fruits may also help to keep your breath fresh, especially if your bad breath is caused more by what you have eaten (such as spicy or garlic-rich foods) rather than down to bacteria in the oral cavity.