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Don’t Let Bad Breath Trouble Your Pretty Smile

15 Tips to Freshen Your Breath
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WebMD Feature

The kiss. The smile. The breath. What’s most important to you (and to your significant other)? Chances are it’s good breath.

Let’s get personal. Bad breath (halitosis) may be common in dogs -- but for people, bad breath affects how you feel about yourself, not to mention how others perceive you. In fact, you may not know you have halitosis until a brave friend tells you.

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How can you tell if you have bad breath? A simple way is to stick a clean finger in your mouth and scrape saliva from the back of your tongue. Put it on the back of your hand, wait a minute, then smell your hand. Is it something you’d want to kiss?

 If not, check out these 15 tips about causes and cures for bad breath. Start freshening your breath today!

5 Common Causes of Bad Breath

1. Blame bacteria for bad breath. Bacteria breed inside your mouth. These micro organisms lurk between your teeth and cover your tongue. When bacteria stagnate, they multiply and give off toxins and stinky odors.

 2. Say "Ahhh." The deep holes in your tonsils, called crypts, are a common cause of halitosis. If your tonsils are too wide and pitted, a cheese-like smelly substance collects in these holes. These nuggets sometimes smell, and may cause bad breath.

 3. Pungent foods and bad breath. Foods such as onion, garlic, and fish can cause bad breath -- even hours after you brush your teeth.

4. Bad habits = bad breath. Any type of smoking (cigarettes, cigars, pipe) or chewing tobacco can leave you with a really nasty taste -- and smell -- in your mouth. 

5. Tummy troubles. Sometimes GI problems such as GERD or an ulcer can cause bad breath when you burp and gas is released. Also blame low-carb diets, which cause ketosis, a fat-burning state in the body that produces dragon breath.

10 Tips to Banish Bad Breath

Now for the fix, here are some simple tips from oral health experts on how to have breath that’s "kissing fresh":

1. Brush your teeth -- and tongue -- twice a day to banish bad breath. While you’re brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste, brush your tongue – especially the back of the tongue. Brushing your tongue will remove smelly bacteria that cause bad breath. One study found that by brushing the tongue, volunteers reduced their perception of bad breath by 70%. You can also buy inexpensive tongue scrapers at most pharmacies. 

2. Floss once a day for fresh breath. Flossing is must-do. Flossing gets out hidden food particles and removes plaque, a coating of bacteria that forms around the tooth. Flossing also helps prevent periodontal disease -- another common cause of bad breath.

 3. Gargle with peroxide to fight halitosis. An antimicrobial mouthwash is important if you have a problem with excess plaque. "You can also gargle with peroxide for fresher breath," says Mike McIlwain, DMD, a dentist at McIlwain Dentistry and an assistant clinical professor in Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Florida. McIlwain recommends gargling with peroxide to his patients. "Treat it like your favorite mouthwash. Just swig, swish, and spit. The oxygen in the hydrogen peroxide kills mouth bacteria that cause bad breath," McIlwain says. 

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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