What causes halitosis?

How to Cure Halitosis

Most breath mints are fleeting saviors, like miniscule snacks for a famished stomach. Their initial rush of cool mint flavor envelops our mouths, immediately masking whatever undesirable taste preceded it. But soon after, minty breath is a mere memory. The freshness gradually fades, giving way to the odious odor that vexed us only minutes before.

To effectively battle bad breath, your first -- and cheapest -- line of defense is to quit feeding the bacteria. Remember that the primary building blocks of the nasty oral gases we call bad breath are leftover food particles. That's why it's important to thoroughly brush your teeth and floss regularly. When cleaning your mouth, pay special attention to the back of your tongue. Brush or use a tongue scraper as far back as you can in order to strike at the mission control center of odor-causing bacteria in the mouth. Not doing so can lead to periodontal disease and gingivitis, which, in turn, encourage foul breath. Open spaces that form between unhealthy gums and your teeth make prime bacteria-breeding spots.

One of the most common products people purchase to combat halitosis is mouthwash. The British Medical Journal recommends using solutions with chlorohexidrine gluconate, which is proven to kill pesky bacteria [source: Scully et al]. Rinsing with it at night preps you for a fresher-smelling morning since dry mouth that occurs when you sleep fosters bacteria production [source: Fisher].

Not surprisingly, what you put into your mouth during the day can also influence the olfactory impact of your breath. Drinking water throughout the day is not only good for your body, but also good for your breath. It washes away bacteria and particles that prompt halitosis. Certain foods including parsley, fennel seeds and carrots can freshen your yapper as well.

When improved oral hygiene doesn't alleviate halitosis and you suspect you have a chronic problem, it may be time to make an appointment with your dentist. A dentist can then help you take more forceful action to quell halitosis. As mentioned on the previous page, bad breath could be coming from problem areas in your body aside from the mouth. In that case, a doctor might be able to pinpoint the source.

­If you're simply insecure about how your breath smells, you aren't alone. Around a quarter of people who consult halitosis specialists don't have chronic halitosis [source: Fisher]. That's because many people misjudge their breath as smelling worse than it does in reality. Garlic and onion-laden dishes will certainly crank up the stink factor, but proper oral care should keep your mouth and breath fresh and clean.

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