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Q: What can I do about bad breath?
November 17, 2014

The first thing to do is figure out why you have bad breath. Many factors can cause it:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking
  • Dry mouth
  • Certain foods (coffee, garlic, onions)
  • Infection in the mouth, tonsils, gastrointestinal tract, sinuses or lungs
  • Certain diseases, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease

Finding the cause will help direct you to an appropriate treatment.

Most bad breath is a result of bacteria that produce certain chemicals, such as hydrogen sulfide. These bacteria survive on the back of your tongue, in your throat, on your tonsils, in between your teeth and in gaps between your teeth and gums.

When these bacteria digest proteins, they release hydrogen sulfide and other compounds.

You cannot get rid of all of these bacteria. But you can reduce their numbers. Brush with toothpaste after meals, and floss to remove food debris. Remember to brush your tongue as well.

Your saliva also helps reduce the number of bacteria. People with dry mouths can chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy to stimulate saliva production. For long-term dry mouth, your dentist can prescribe artificial saliva.

Besides reducing the number of bacteria in your mouth, research suggests that compounds in both green and black tea may stop the growth of the bacteria responsible for bad breath. These compounds are called polyphenols. They also may reduce the compounds produced by the bacteria.

You also can try using a mouthwash containing zinc ions. Zinc appears to neutralize the odor of the compounds.

You also can try avoiding foods with strong smells, such as garlic and onions.

If you follow these suggestions but they do not seem to work, then your problem may be caused by an infection or a disease. If this is the case, you should be checked out by your doctor.

If you try these suggestions and no infection or disease could be causing your bad breath, talk with your dentist.

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