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    Bad Breath: Causes and Cures

    By Beth Axtell
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS

    You only have one chance to make a good first impression. You want people to remember your confidence and smarts -- not your breath.

    Bad breath (halitosis) has many causes. But lucky for you it has even more solutions.

    Recommended Related to Oral Health

    Good Solutions for Bad Breath

    There's an old saying that nothing is certain in life but death and taxes. But add one more thing to the list -- bad breath. Just about everyone has had it. "At least 50% of the adult population has bad breath at one point or another, and just about everyone has it in the morning,"says Andrew Spielman, DMD, PhD, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of basic science and craniofacial biology at the NYU College of Dentistry. According to Spielman, 90% of bad breath is caused by bacteria,...

    Read the Good Solutions for Bad Breath article > >

    CAUSE: Bacteria that breed inside your mouth. These little bugs lurk between your teeth and cover your tongue. When they get stuck in one place, they multiply and give off stinky odors.
    CURE: Brush and floss. Genaro Romo, DDS, says to brush your teeth -- and tongue -- twice a day for at least 2 minutes. Floss once a day. Use a fluoride toothpaste. An inexpensive tongue scraper will also remove smelly bacteria[.

    CAUSE: Tonsil stones. Your tonsils are full of little pits and pockets that collect bacteria and mucus until a cheese-like substance hardens into a "stone." These nuggets stink and cause bad breath and a nasty taste in your mouth.
    CURE: Remove and prevent. A water flosser can help get rid of debris before it turns into a stone or flush stones out once they start,says Stacey Ishman, MD, surgical director for the Upper Airway Center at Cincinnati Children's Medical Center.You can also gently remove the stones with a cotton swab or even your toothbrush. Once you get them out, the trick is to prevent more from forming. Gargle with warm salt water to clear the bacteria and mucus from the crypts before stones can form. If you have tonsillitis and stones often, your best bet may be to have your tonsils surgically removed.

    CAUSE: Tummy troubles. Sometimes GI problems like reflux or an ulcer can cause foul smells when you burp and release gas.
    CURE: Antacids. Over-the-counter antacids or acid blockers may ease a sour or acidic stomach. If you're lactose intolerant and have GI problems, try lactase tablets. Eating yogurt or taking probiotics can boost the good bacteria in your gut and may get your mouth in better shape.

    CAUSE: Smelly food. Onion, garlic, and some spices can cause bad breath. The odor lingers while food particles stay in your mouth, but these foods give you a double-whammy. Once they make it through your system, their stinky chemicals travel through your bloodstream to the lungs where you breathe them out.CURE: Brush and floss. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing will loosen hidden food bits and prevent odor-causing bacteria from multiplying. If that doesn't help, limit the amount of garlic and onion you eat or skip them unless they're cooked.

    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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