Recently I went to a popular local restaurant, and while the food was absolutely top notch, it left me with bad breath for several days afterwards. While it was embarrassing, it was also a little bit disconcerting to me. After all, I am a dentist. I should be able to do something about this, right? It also got me thinking about the causes of bad breath and what solutions there are for people who deal with this on a regular basis. Fortunately, in most cases of chronic bad breath (or “halitosis”), there are clear causes and simple solutions.
Let’s think about the mouth for a second. It is a warm, moist environment: the perfect place for bacteria to hang out. We all know that if you leave a carton of milk out in such an environment it won’t take long before it starts smelling bad. Well, the same thing happens in our mouths. And just like we teach ourselves to put away the milk, we must also develop good habits to keep our breath fresh.
Obviously, brushing your teeth is important. In cases of bad breath, however, it’s often not enough. The most common cause of halitosis is a low-level infection in the gums, and the only way to get rid of it is to clean it out manually. This means taking out the floss on a regular basis (every day), and visiting your hygienist for a professional dental cleaning. Sorry, but brushing your teeth without these other things will probably not cure your bad breath.
There are some other tricks you can try as well. As almost every dentist or hygienist will tell you, electric toothbrushes can make a huge difference when it comes to reaching the little out-of-the-way areas that are often missed. It doesn’t even matter that much what kind you get- the high-end models have some nice features, but you can pick one up for under $20 that will do a decent job.
Mouth rinses (fluoride ones are the best), sugarless gum (stimulates saliva to rinse your mouth), and tongue scrapers all work as well. In my office, my hygienist is a big fan of the Water Pik. Really, There are a lot of products out there, but it’s all just about keeping things clean.
It is important to note that the mouth is not always the source of bad breath. Systemic problems such as bronchitis, stomach ulcers, and diabetes may be to blame. Gastric gasses are another common culprit for bad breath as well.
Try out some of these products and ideas to see what works for you, and the next time you are out with friends, you can be confident that you have the sweetest smelling breath around.