We don’t talk about it in polite company. We chew gum, gargle mouthwash, and try burning strips of concentrated breath fresheners that melt on the tongue. Battling bad breath can feel like an endless struggle at times.
What causes bad breath? More often than not, the problem starts if you aren’t brushing and flossing as well and as often as you should. Bacteria and food particles can build up in your mouth, causing odor as the bacteria works on the food. This bacterial buildup can lead to gum inflammation (gingivitis) or gum disease (periodontitis).
Dry mouth can also be a problem — saliva helps wash away bacteria in the mouth. If you aren’t producing enough saliva, the bacteria build up. Medications — like certain antihistamines and antidepressants — can dry the mouth and lead to bad breath.
Infections can cause bad breath, especially sinus or upper respiratory infections. Liver and lung disease can make your breath less than minty fresh. Digestive problems like acid reflux can cause bad breath when food comes back up into the esophagus from the stomach. Even diabetes can affect your breath.
So what can you do to battle the bad breath?
- Brush and floss your teeth regularly.
- Brush your tongue and cheeks when you do your teeth. It will tickle like crazy, but you don’t have to scrub with gusto. Just a few gentle passes of the brush will remove debris and bacteria.
- Visit your dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings. Be sure to ask about your breath — your dentist may need to scrape away plaque that has hardened into tartar.
- Skip the mouthwash. Too many mouthwashes contain alcohol, which only dries out the mouth.
- Keep your mouth moist. Sip water throughout the day or chew gum to keep the saliva flowing.