WebMD Health - Dental

Jul 13, 2010 7:34 PM

Bad Breath Troubles?

The kiss. The smile. The breath. What's most important to you (and to your significant other)? Chances are it's good breath.

Let's get personal. Bad breath (halitosis) may be common in dogs -- but for people, bad breath affects how you feel about yourself, not to mention how others perceive you. In fact, you may not know you have halitosis until a brave friend tells you.

How can you tell if you have bad breath? A simple way is to stick a clean finger in your mouth and scrape saliva from the back of your tongue. Put it on the back of your hand, wait a minute, then smell your hand. Is it something you'd want to kiss?

If not, check out these 15 tips about causes and cures for bad breath. Start freshening your breath today!

5 Common Causes of Bad Breath

1. Blame bacteria for bad breath. Bacteria breed inside your mouth. These micro organisms lurk between your teeth and cover your tongue. When bacteria stagnate, they multiply and give off toxins and stinky odors.

2. Say "Ahhh." The deep holes in your tonsils, called crypts, are a common cause of halitosis. If your tonsils are too wide and pitted, a cheese-like smelly substance collects in these holes. These nuggets sometimes smell, and may cause bad breath.

3. Pungent foods and bad breath. Foods such as onion, garlic, and fish can cause bad breath -- even hours after you brush your teeth.

4. Bad habits = bad breath. Any type of smoking (cigarettes, cigars, pipe) or chewing tobacco can leave you with a really nasty taste -- and smell -- in your mouth.

5. Tummy troubles. Sometimes GI problems such as GERD or an ulcer can cause bad breath when you burp and gas is released. Also blame low-carb diets, which cause ketosis, a fat-burning state in the body that produces dragon breath.

10 Tips to Banish Bad Breath

Now for the fix, here are some simple tips from oral health experts on how to have breath that's "kissing fresh":

1. Brush your teeth -- and tongue -- twice a day to banish bad breath. While you're brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste, brush your tongue - especially the back of the tongue. Brushing your tongue will remove smelly bacteria that cause bad breath. One study found that by brushing the tongue, volunteers reduced their perception of bad breath by 70%. You can also buy inexpensive tongue scrapers at most pharmacies.

2. Floss once a day for fresh breath. Flossing is must-do. Flossing gets out hidden food particles and removes plaque, a coating of bacteria that forms around the tooth. Flossing also helps prevent periodontal disease -- another common cause of bad breath.

3. Gargle with peroxide to fight halitosis. An antimicrobial mouthwash is important if you have a problem with excess plaque. "You can also gargle with peroxide for fresher breath," says Mike McIlwain, DMD, a dentist at McIlwain Dentistry and an assistant clinical professor in Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Florida. McIlwain recommends gargling with peroxide to his patients. "Treat it like your favorite mouthwash. Just swig, swish, and spit. The oxygen in the hydrogen peroxide kills mouth bacteria that cause bad breath," McIlwain says.

4. Use a fluoride mouth rinse for sweeter breath. Not only do decayed teeth hurt, they have an awful odor. Tooth decay can be prevented with fluoride toothpaste and proper dental care.

5. Drink lots of water to avert bad breath. "Lack of fluids can lead to dry mouth (xerostomia) and cause bad breath," says Murray Grossan, MD, a board certified otolaryngologist at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and coauthor of The Sinus Cure. Dry mouth or reduced saliva can be the result of not drinking enough liquids, mouth breathing, or medications like antihistamines.

6. Reduce upset stomachs to ease bad breath. Over-the-counter antacids may ease a sour or acidic stomach, which can cause halitosis when you burp. If you are milk intolerant and have GI problems, try lactase tablets.

7. Check your sinuses; infections cause bad breath. Bad breath is often a clue to an underlying sinus infection. "The purulent post-nasal drip is the culprit," says William Sears, MD, also known as "America's Pediatrician," an associate clinical professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. Post-nasal drip is most noticeable after sleeping at night, which is why many people rush to brush their teeth first thing in the morning.

8. Eat yogurt for sweeter breath. Yogurt replenishes the good bacteria in the gut and "promotes a healthier mouth," McIlwain says. Sears recommends celery "to remove stinky bacteria." You may also try eating parsley between meals to fresh breath. Parsley reportedly has antibacterial and antifungal properties.

9. Chew gum with xylitol to banish bad breath. Chewing gum makes you salivate if your mouth is dry and causing bad breath. Saliva is what washes away the bacteria in your mouth.

10. See your dentist. At least every six months, see your dentist for teeth cleaning and an oral exam. Your dentist can check your mouth and teeth for open cavities and gum disease that cause bad breath.

If self-care tips don't work to stop your bad breath, see your doctor. Occasionally bad breath is a sign of a more serious problem, such as an infection, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, or kidney or liver disease.

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