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It’s something that none of us wants, but at some point we likely all experienced it. Bad breath, otherwise known as halitosis, is a condition that leaves you running for your toothbrush or worse yet, prompt others to run from you. June is Oral Health Month, making it a great time to nip this common problem in the bud. In fact, it’s so common that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that up to half of the US population has suffered from it. That’s a big enough problem that knowing what causes it and how to get rid of it should become a higher priority.

“Having halitosis can be quite embarrassing and it’s something that nobody wants,” explains Dr. Michael Florman, a Los Angeles-based orthodontist and the chief executive officer of EverSmile, Inc. “Many people are just not sure how to tackle the problem, so they continue to suffer in silence, often afraid to talk and open up to those who come near them.”

The NIH reports that bad breath is caused by food residue and bacteria that accumulates in the furrows of the tongue. Those accumulations are then broken down by volatile compounds that lead to the unpleasant smell. Bad breath can also be caused by poor oral hygiene. Some of the same bacteria that causes the bad breath can also lead to cavities and gum disease. Additional things that contribute to bad breath include smoking and chewing tobacco, certain medications, and medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which has the bad breath originating in the stomach, and also dry mouth (xerostomia), which occurs when people do not produce enough saliva. There are still other conditions that can cause bad breath, such as respiratory tract infections like pneumonia, bronchitis, postnasal drip, and sinus infections. 

While there are many factors that can contribute to having bad breath, there are also things you can do to help rid yourself of it. Here are a few ways to help get rid of and prevent bad breath:

  • Good oral hygiene. Certain remedies are obvious to reduce or eliminate bad breath depending the etiology. Brushing your teeth regularly, flossing and scraping your tongue all reduce bacteria that cause bad breath. The only way to make sure that you have good oral hygiene is to visit your dentist regularly. Visiting your dentist will help determine if you are maintaining good oral hygiene, if you have gum disease or bad teeth.
  • Drink and snack better. Drinking water will help keep odor under control because it helps move those acids through the digestive tract. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, because bad breath can be a sign of dehydration. Also, eating a healthy snack will also help settle down odors from the stomach. 
  • Try commercial remedies. Over the counter remedies such as using mouth rinses, toothpastes, and sugar free chewing gums all can help. Regular brushing and flossing removes bacteria and plaque from teeth and gums. One of the newest products on the market to combat bad breath is EverSmile WhitenFresh which uses patent pending hydrogen peroxide and surfactants to kill bacteria that cause bad breath, gingivitis, and tooth decay. Such formulas are often administered orally. Some are sprayed into the mouth up to four times per day, each time reducing the number of the bacteria and odor causing molecules. Some can be used when on the go making them an incredible added benefit to daily brushing and flossing routines. Additional benefits derived from using such products may include whiter teeth.
  • Keep food in mind. If you want to avoid bad breath for a particular meeting or date, be sure to avoid eating those foods right before it that help to cause it. These foods include garlic, onion, and fish. If you eat these foods and plan to be around others, you can help mask it by chewing on some parsley, or chew some gum. Keep mind, however, that it will only help reduce the odor for a short time. 

“Bad breath is not attractive, but it’s not something you are stuck with either,” added Dr. Florman. “Your best route to eliminating it is through good oral health care. If you still have it regularly speak with your dentist or doctor about what could be causing it so that it can be addressed. Getting rid of that bad breath will give you more of a reason to smile.”