Got bad breath? Mouthwash and chewing gum aren’t the only ways to mask the awful odor. A new study suggests that probiotics, or “good” bacteria, found in a wide variety of fermented foods may also help curb the offensive smell.
Researchers at the National Clinical Research Center for Oral Diseases at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, examined data pooled from seven clinical trials that examined the impact of probiotics on bad breath. Across all of the studies, a total of 278 people were randomly assigned placebo pills or supplements of the probiotics Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus reuteri, Streptococcus salivarius, or Weissella cibaria to see if the beneficial microorganisms reduced bad breath.
When people took probiotics for 2 to 12 weeks, they had significantly lower levels of volatile sulfuric compounds, which are linked to bad breath, and much less measurable breath odor, two indications that probiotics helped improve halitosis, the researchers reported in BMJ Open.
What Causes Horrible-Smelling Breath?
To quantify bad breath, the researchers measured what’s known as volatile sulfuric compounds, a gaseous mix of sulfur and other elements produced when bacteria in the mouth mingles with food and other debris. Those compounds are one of the main causes of halitosis. Researchers also measured breath odors at various distances from the mouth and looked for white film coating the tongue, which can contribute to bad breath.
While subjects who took probiotics had lower levels of volatile sulfuric compounds and breath odor, there wasn’t a meaningful change in the amount of tongue coating. It’s possible that the studies were too small or too brief to detect subtle changes, the researchers write.
Another possible limitation of the analysis is that the smaller studies the researchers examined also used a variety of methods to assess changes in breath odor and several different types of probiotics. That makes it hard to recommend a specific probiotic for combating halitosis.
Probiotics May Offer a Remedy for Bad Breath
Even so, the results of the new study add to a growing body of evidence that suggests probiotics in supplements and fermented foods may help alleviate bad breath. One study published in 2020 found probiotics worked to prevent halitosis, cavities, and gum disease. Another study published earlier this year also found probiotics useful for reducing bad breath.
Researchers said that these fermented friends may help fight bad breath by slowing the breakdown of amino acids and proteins in the mouth, limiting smelly by-products, according to the press release.
But you don’t have to take supplements to see the same benefits. These probiotics can be found in tangy fermented foods like yogurt, sourdough bread, and even miso soup (miso is fermented soybean paste). They can also be found in fermented beverages like kombucha and kefir.
How to Cure Bad Breath
If bad breath bothers you even after you try probiotics or fermented foods, there’s plenty more you can do. When bad breath is related to poor oral hygiene, dentists typically recommend several steps to address it, according to the Mayo Clinic. Those include:
- Trying Mouth Rinses A rinse or mouthwash may kill bacteria that cause bad breath.
- Treating Gum Disease Gum disease can cause gums to separate from the teeth and create pockets where odor-causing bacteria can accumulate.
- Brushing Your Teeth After Meals Use an antibacterial toothpaste to help reduce breath odors. Also brush your tongue to remove that white film.
- Flossing This removes particles between your teeth that can cause bad breath.
- Changing Your Diet Cut out foods like garlic and onion that leave a lingering odor in your mouth.
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