Bad Breath

Chat with Pharmacy Staff

Question

What causes bad breath and what can I do about it?

Answer

All of us have experienced bad breath (also called halitosis) at one time or another. Poor oral hygiene is one of the most common causes of bad breath. Bacteria grow on food particles in the mouth, causing an unpleasant odor. A dry mouth can also encourage bacterial growth and lead to bad breath. Other causes include tobacco use, cavities, gum disease, heartburn, sinus infections, lung disease, and kidney disease. Certain foods like onions, garlic, alcohol, and coffee are notorious culprits. Medicines that dry out the mouth, including antihistamines, can also contribute to the problem.

Bad breath prevention

The best way to prevent bad breath is through good oral hygiene. Dentists recommend brushing and flossing frequently to clean your mouth. It's also important to brush your tongue too. If you can't brush after eating, chew sugarless gum or at least rinse your mouth with water. Oral devices like dentures, retainers, and braces can trap food after a meal. Follow your dentist's directions to properly clean these devices. People with dry mouth may benefit from over-the-counter saliva substitutes. Mouthwashes and breath mints can temporarily hide breath odor, but they don't treat the cause of the problem. Some people also try herbal remedies. If your breath doesn't improve with good oral hygiene, talk to your doctor or dentist. A medical condition may be causing the problem.

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