Bad breath. It stinks. More than 80 million Americans suffer from halitosis and, every year, consumers spend $10 billion on oral hygiene products like mouthwashes and mints to quench the stench. Unfortunately, these products don't always solve the problem. Millions of tiny bacteria in your mouth cause bad breath, and these can hang around for months or even years. Here are some tips on how to get rid of bad breath for good.
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Why Do You Have Bad Breath?
There are a number of causes of bad breath. Smelly food, cigarettes and certain medications can leave your mouth feeling less than fresh. Long-term halitosis, however, could be the result of poor oral hygiene habits. If you don't brush your teeth properly, plaque can build up on your teeth. The result? A bad odor that will only get worse over time.
"The bacteria on our teeth and gums (called 'plaque') also cause gum disease and tooth decay," says the Oral Health Foundation. "One of the warning signs of gum disease is that you always have bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth."
A cavity could also be the culprit. If you leave one of these untreated, bacteria will develop on your tooth enamel and cause foul-smelling breath.
How Do You Get Rid of Bad Breath?
First, try brushing your teeth more often. Dentists recommend you brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day. Don't forget to floss, either. This removes the build-up of food residue on your teeth — one of the causes of bad breath. This tip might sound obvious, but the number of people who don't clean their teeth properly — or at all — might surprise you. Four in 10 people don't brush their teeth every day, according to a British study.
If the problem persists, try scraping your tongue. "The coating that normally forms on your tongue can be a host for smelly bacteria," says WebMD. "To get rid of them, gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush."
Sometimes, switching up your dental routine won't solve the problem. If bad breath won't go away, visit your dentist. The sooner you make an appointment, the quicker you can solve the issue.
"Regular checkups allow your dentist to detect any problems such as gum disease or dry mouth and stop them before they become more serious," says the American Dental Association. "If your dentist determines your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your primary care doctor."
Tips for Long-Lasting Fresh Breath
Choose a good mouthwash, as it will help keep your breath fresh. Just swish the stuff around your mouth after you brush your teeth.
"Most alcohol-free mouthwashes contain ingredients that fight bad breath, like cetylpyridinium chloride," says the Colgate Oral Care Center. "Once you've selected a mouthwash, make sure to use it regularly. After brushing your teeth in the morning and evening, rinse with your mouthwash; you can use it either before or after you floss."
Home remedies like chewing cloves or fennel seeds or drinking more water might also help.
Stink-breath can be embarrassing. Don't ignore the problem — it won't go away on its own. Change your oral hygiene habits, invest in a good mouthwash and visit your dentist to solve bad breath once and for all.