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Breathe easy: Tips for battling bad breath

Help yourself to garlic chicken at dinner, and you won’t wonder why your breath is less than, well, fresh. And, of course, it’s nothing that a little time and a good toothbrushing won’t remedy. But chronic halitosis is another story.

Bad breath can be caused by anything from gum disease to postnasal drip to a rigorous exercise session to diabetes. Another common trigger is dieting (in particular a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet), which causes the body to burn fat and produce by-products that cause bad breath. Eating less also reduces saliva production; this, in turn, contributes to halitosis because saliva is necessary to flush bacteria from the mouth. (Ironically, mouthwashes with a high alcohol content actually can cause halitosis by drying the mouth.) Stress also can bring on foul breath by causing changes in body chemistry. And some medications can also be culprits.

What can you do to avoid this embarrassing problem? Other than avoiding spicy foods, garlic, onions and alcohol, these strategies can help:

  • Brush up…and down. Carry a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste with you and brush after every meal. Don’t forget to brush the roof of your mouth as well as your tongue.
  • Floss. Flossing removes particles between teeth that otherwise decay and contribute to halitosis.
  • Quit smoking. Stopping will bring instant breath-freshening results.
  • See your dentist regularly. In addition to professional cleanings, regular exams by your dentist will ensure that any tooth or gum problems are detected and treated promptly.
  • Drink up. Water works magic on the body—and your breath. Drinking at least eight glasses a day can keep your mouth moist and help rid it of bacteria.
  • Bad breath that won’t go away despite the steps described above should be checked out by your dentist or healthcare provider to rule out any underlying causes.