Good news about fighting bad breath

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be embarrassing. But it’s quite common and usually curable. Here’s what you can do to avoid this problem.

How it develops

In general, bad breath is caused by odor-producing bacteria and the bad-smelling compounds released by bacteria. Chronic bad breath can be the result of:

  • Oral conditions like poor oral hygiene, gum disease, tooth decay, and dry mouth 
  • Respiratory conditions like sinusitis, tonsillitis, and bronchial tract problems
  • Other medical conditions
  • Certain medications
  • Tobacco use

Temporary bad breath is often caused by certain foods and beverages. See the lists below for foods and drinks you might want to avoid on some occasions.

Ways to keep breath fresher 

  • Visit your dentist regularly. Let your dentist know if you’re experiencing bad breath, any medical conditions you have and which medications you take. Your dentist can help you determine the cause. You may be referred to your physician to see if bad breath is caused by a medical condition or medication.

  • Use good daily oral hygiene habits to keep odor-causing bacteria at bay. Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day for two minutes each time and floss daily. You may also want to use a mouthwash to help freshen breath and wash away debris.

  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed or worn. A worn toothbrush won’t clean your teeth as well as a new one. Clean dentures and dental appliances like a retainer or mouth guard daily and after use. Dry before storing them.

  • Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow that cleans your mouth. It also temporarily freshens breath.

  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to wash food and bacteria from your mouth and prevent odor-causing dry mouth. Limiting caffeine and alcohol will also help prevent dehydration and dry mouth.

  • Avoid all tobacco, including vaping, as tobacco and vaping liquids dry out your mouth, contribute to gum disease, and cause the dreaded “ashtray breath."

Foods and drinks that affect breath

Eating a diet that’s low in sugar and refined carbohydrates can help you avoid oral diseases that cause bad breath. What you eat also has a temporary effect on your breath.

Foods that help freshen breath:

  • Apples  
  • Pears
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Parsley 
  • Strawberries 
  • Mint
  • Cinnamon
  • Yogurt

Foods and beverages that cause bad breath:

  • Spicy foods
  • Tuna
  • Pastrami
  • Pickles
  • Radishes
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Alcohol

Even if you aren’t worried about bad breath, it’s still important to maintain good oral health habits for the long-term health of your smile.