Having bad breath or an unpleasant odor between your teeth can be embarrassing and frustrating. There are many potential causes of bad breath, from poor oral hygiene to medical conditions. The good news is there are also many ways you can get rid of smells between your teeth and maintain fresh breath.
Causes of Smells Between Teeth
Here are some of the most common causes of bad breath and smells between teeth:
- Food debris – Leftover food particles stuck between teeth or under the gumline can rot and cause odors.
- Poor oral hygiene – Not brushing and flossing regularly allows plaque and bacteria to build up, resulting in bad breath.
- Dry mouth – Saliva naturally washes away odor-causing bacteria. A lack of saliva can cause bad breath.
- Gum disease – Inflamed gums provide an ideal environment for sulfur compounds that cause bad breath.
- Tobacco use – Smoking and chewing tobacco can stain teeth and cause bad breath.
- Medical conditions – Diseases like sinus infections, acid reflux, and diabetes can contribute to bad breath.
- Medications – Some prescription drugs and supplements can reduce saliva and cause mouth odors.
Oral Hygiene Tips for Fresher Breath
Practicing good oral hygiene is the first line of defense against smells between your teeth. Here are some tips for cleaning between your teeth and maintaining fresher breath:
- Brush twice a day – Brush your teeth in the morning and before bed to remove plaque buildup.
- Floss daily – Floss at least once a day to remove food particles between teeth.
- Use an antiseptic mouthwash – Mouthwash can kill bacteria that cause bad breath.
- Clean your tongue – Use a tongue scraper or toothbrush to remove bacteria from your tongue.
- Drink water – Stay hydrated to produce more saliva, which naturally washes away odor-causing debris.
- Chew gum – Chewing sugar-free gum stimulates saliva flow to wash away particles.
- Avoid foods that cause odor – Onions, garlic, and spices can cause lingering bad breath.
- Quit smoking – Smoking causes tooth discoloration and bad breath.
Between-Teeth Cleaning Tools
In addition to basic oral hygiene, specialized tools can help you thoroughly clean between your teeth to get rid of odors. Here are some of the most effective options:
- Dental floss – Flossing cleans areas where your toothbrush can’t reach. Make sure to floss under the gumline.
- Interdental brushes – These tiny brushes fit between teeth and clean out trapped debris.
- Wooden plaque removers – Wooden picks can scrape plaque from between teeth.
- Irrigators – Devices that shoot water between teeth dislodge trapped particles.
- Tongue scrapers – Scraping your tongue removes bacteria that cause odor.
- Mouthwash – Antiseptic and anti-bacterial mouthwashes kill germs between teeth.
Don’t force any tool between your teeth – let them glide gently to avoid damaging your gums. Focus especially on the back molars where food and plaque easily get trapped.
When to See a Dentist
If you have consistent bad breath and smells between your teeth despite good oral hygiene, you may need professional help. Make an appointment with your dentist if:
- You notice signs of gum disease like inflamed, bleeding gums.
- You have persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth.
- You experience mouth pain or sensitivity between teeth.
- You have red, swollen, or receding gums.
- Your teeth feel loose in the gums.
The dentist can examine your oral health, rule out underlying causes like infections, and provide specialized treatment options. For example, you may need a deep cleaning to remove trapped bacteria below the gumline. Various bad breath treatments are also available, like antimicrobial rinses.
|Bad Breath Treatment Options from a Dentist||Details|
|Dental cleanings||A professional dental cleaning can remove plaque and tartar below the gumline that regular brushing misses.|
|Antimicrobial mouth rinses||Prescription mouthwashes with chlorhexidine or cetylpyridinium chloride can kill bacteria between teeth.|
|Antibiotics||If an infection is causing bad breath, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat it.|
Lifestyle Remedies for Bad Breath
Along with oral hygiene and dental treatments, adjusting certain lifestyle factors can also improve breath odor between teeth:
- Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water to produce more odor-fighting saliva.
- Limit alcohol/coffee – Beverages like coffee and alcohol can dry out your mouth.
- Quit tobacco – Smoking causes chronic bad breath so consider quitting.
- Use a humidifier – Keeping air moist prevents dry mouth and its associated odors.
- Take probiotics – Probiotic supplements support healthy bacteria in the mouth.
- Eat yogurt – Yogurt’s live cultures may reduce sulfur compounds that cause odor.
Practicing good oral hygiene day and night, seeing your dentist regularly, and modifying your habits can keep your breath fresh smelling.
When to Seek Medical Care
In some cases, bad breath may result from an underlying medical condition. See your regular doctor if you have persistent bad breath along with:
- Weight loss
- Cough or sore throat
- Stomach pain
Sinus infections, acid reflux, diabetes, kidney disease, and other conditions can contribute to bad breath. Your doctor can examine your symptoms, order tests, and determine if a health condition is the source of mouth odors.
Why does my breath smell bad even after brushing?
Even with brushing, food and bacteria can remain lodged between teeth and the gumline. Flossing is essential to remove debris brushing missed. Saliva reduction overnight can also make morning breath smell worse.
Can Vitamin C tablets help with bad breath?
There is little scientific evidence showing Vitamin C reduces bad breath. The vitamins may support immune function but do not directly neutralize the sulfur compounds causing odor.
Will eating parsley or mint leaves freshen breath?
Parsley, mint, and other green herbs can temporarily mask bad breath thanks to their strong flavors. However, they cannot eliminate the underlying bacteria causing the odor. Proper oral hygiene is still needed.
When to Seek Emergency Care
In rare cases, bad breath can signal a potentially life-threatening medical emergency. Seek emergency care if your bad breath is accompanied by:
- Severe pain or swelling in the mouth
- Numbness in the face, mouth, or tongue
- Difficulty breathing
- High fever
These symptoms could indicate a severe infection or abscess requiring immediate treatment.
Practicing good daily oral hygiene and having regular dental cleanings can prevent bad breath from developing in the first place. Follow these tips to stop smells before they start:
- Brush teeth twice per day for 2 minutes.
- Floss between teeth once per day.
- Use mouthwash to rinse after meals when brushing isn’t possible.
- Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist.
- Clean or replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months.
- Schedule professional teeth cleanings every 6 months.
Keeping your mouth clean and bacteria-free prevents odors from accumulating between your teeth.
When to Follow Up with Your Dentist
You should follow up with your dentist if bad breath persists after 2 weeks despite good oral hygiene. Call right away if you notice any worsening gum pain, swelling, or bleeding. Ongoing bad breath may require further evaluation and treatment to determine the underlying cause.
Bad breath causes discomfort and can take a toll on your confidence. While occasional bad breath is normal, persistent odors between your teeth warrant attention. Practicing good oral hygiene, using between-teeth cleaners, avoiding odor-causing foods, and getting professional care can help eliminate unpleasant smells. With diligence and the right treatment plan, you can keep your breath fresh, clean, and odor-free.