Occasional bad breath is unavoidable. Whether it’s because of a cold that has you breathing through your mouth or a garlicky pasta dinner, we all have bad breath once in a while and it’s not usually something to be concerned about. If, on the other hand, you have chronic bad breath (also known as halitosis), it’s a sign that you might have a serious dental or medical issue. Here’s how to prevent bad breath—and what to do if these tips don’t help.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene
No one wants to hear that they’re not brushing or flossing well, but the truth is, many cases of bad breath simply come down to poor oral hygiene. If you’re not brushing thoroughly or as often as needed, food and bacteria accumulate in your mouth, causing odor.
Good oral hygiene means:
- Brushing for two minutes twice a day and cleaning the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces of each tooth.
- Flossing between all of your teeth once a day.
- Brushing off any buildup on your tongue.
Using a mouth rinse is optional, but if you do choose to rinse after brushing, be sure to use a mouthwash that is alcohol-free. Rinses that contain alcohol can exacerbate bad breath by drying out your mouth. This brings us to our next point…
Prevent Dry Mouth
Having sufficient saliva is important for your oral health. All day long, your saliva washes away bacteria, food debris, and dead cells from your mouth. If you have dry mouth, these accumulate, which results in bad breath. Dry mouth creates the perfect environment for bacterial overgrowth, which can lead to cavities and gum disease. Both of these conditions can also cause or contribute to bad breath.
When dry mouth is caused by simple dehydration, the solution is straightforward: drink more water throughout the day and, when you can’t, use a sugar-free lozenge or gum to stimulate saliva production. There are other circumstances when dry mouth is caused by medications or health conditions, which may require intervention from your doctor. We can also recommend moisturizing mouth rinses or even prescribe medications to stimulate saliva production in severe cases.
Tobacco use is another common cause of bad breath. The smoke itself lingers on your breath even after you’ve finished a cigarette, and smoking is also another factor that contributes to dry mouth. While there are certainly more pressing reasons to stop smoking, for some patients knowing that their smoking habit is causing them to have embarrassing bad breath is the encouragement they need to quit for good.
See Your Dentist Regularly
When you come in for your regular dental cleanings and exams, plaque and tartar is removed from your teeth to reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease, two conditions that can cause halitosis. During these appointments, you’ll also be able to discuss your concerns with us and we can help determine if there are any underlying dental issues that may be contributing to your bad breath.
What to Do When These Tips Don’t Help
If you’ve tried the tips listed above and you still suffer from bad breath, it could be a sign of a medical issue. GERD, allergies, tonsil stones, chronic sinus issues, and other common health conditions can cause bad breath. After you’ve ruled out any dental problems, contact your primary care physician for a health assessment.