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9 ways to stop bad breath

Is your breath fresh? More than 80 million people suffer from chronic halitosis, or bad breath, and studies show half of adults have had it at some point. In most cases, it originates from the gums and tongue.

Bad breath can be very embarrassing, but it’s a common condition that you can prevent. Follow these nine tips to fight bad breath and keep your mouth healthy:

Brush your teeth twice a day

Brush your teeth for two to three minutes at least twice a day to remove plaque and food debris. It’s important to know when to brush at breakfast time, and always brush your teeth before going to bed. Adding a brushing session with baking soda can reduce the acidity and the bacteria that cause bad breath to grow.

Floss daily

Flossing will remove food debris from between the teeth that a toothbrush can't reach. If the food debris isn’t removed, bacteria will begin to feed on it, causing bad breath.

Brush or scrape your tongue

Bacteria can build up on its rough surface of your tongue and contribute to halitosis, so don’t neglect cleaning it. You need to clean the whole surface, not just the tip, to remove any buildup between the taste buds and folds in the tongue. A great tool for this is an inexpensive plastic tongue scraper, which is available in drugstores. You can also use your toothbrush to brush your tongue.

Use a mouth rinse

If you have a dental problem causing your chronic bad breath, using a mouth rinse will only mask the odor. In some cases, this may actually worsen the problem by irritating oral tissue.

Instead, try a quick rinse with a mix of water and a few drops of peppermint oil. Or rinse your mouth with black or green tea. Two research studies, by Pace University and the University of Illinois at Chicago, showed that rinsing with tea can suppress the growth of bacteria that cause mouth odor.

Visit your dentist

If you’re not whether sure you have chronic bad breath, you can visit your dentist, who can evaluate whether you have a problem and how severe it is.

Your dentist can evaluate any oral health problems and can refer you to your family physician or a specialist if the problem may be caused by an internal infection.

Quit smoking and avoid tobacco products

If you ever needed another reason to quit, here’s an easy one: Smoking contributes to bad breath. Tobacco tends to dry out your mouth and can leave an unpleasant smell that lingers even after brushing your teeth.

Wet your whistle

Dry mouth contributes to bad breath, so be sure to drink a sufficient amount of water (six to eight 8-ounce glasses) daily. Drinking water will help keep odor under control because it helps wash away food particles and bacteria, the primary cause of bad breath.

If you have chronic dry mouth or take medications that cause you to have dry mouth, talk to your dentist about recommending an over-the-counter saliva substitute.

Eat a piece of sugarless candy or chew sugarless gum

You can suck on a piece of sugarless candy or chew sugarless gum to help stimulate saliva flow. Your saliva will help to wash away food debris and bacteria that cause bad breath.

Munch on crispy fruits and veggies

Between meals, you can snack on carrots, celery sticks and apples to increase saliva flow and wash away bacteria. These snacks can also help alleviate bad breath caused by hunger or fasting. An empty stomach from skipping meals can cause foul breath as acids in your stomach build up.

Last updated July 21, 2021


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The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.