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Change Your Breath From Bad to Good

Got bad breath? Here's how to make it better.
By Pamela Babcock
WebMD Feature

No one likes to hear it, but it's worse not to know it: You have bad breath.

Bad breath (also known as halitosis or malodor) can be embarrassing and tough on those around you. Some people don't realize their breath could peel paint because people are afraid to tell them.

"Certainly bad breath can ruin relationships," John Woodall, DDS, a dentist with Woodall and McNeill in Raleigh, N.C., tells WebMD.

Fortunately, this problem is often easy to fix. What helps: Good oral hygiene, regular visits to your dentist, and ruling out any underlying conditions or other factors (such as some medications, diets, and foods) that could make your breath less than pleasant.

Do You Have Bad Breath?

Bad breath is often caused by a buildup of bacteria in your mouth that causes inflammation and gives off noxious odors or gases that smell like sulfur -- or worse.

Everybody has nasty breath at some point, like when you get out of bed in the morning.

Not sure if your breath is bad? The best way to find out is to ask a trusted friend or your significant other, "'Does my breath smell?' Because it's really hard to tell on your own," Tina Frangella, DDS, a dentist with Frangella Dental in New York, tells WebMD.

There's another way to know. It may seem a bit gross, but look at and smell your dental floss after you use it.

"If your floss smells or there is blood on it, then there are foul odors in your mouth," Woodall says.

What Causes Bad Breath?

There are no statistics on what percentage of the population has bad breath. That's because studies usually rely on someone reporting whether or not they think they have bad breath and may not be accurate.

But studies show that about 80% of bad breath comes from an oral source. For instance, cavities or gum disease can lead to bad breath, as can tonsils that have trapped food particles; cracked fillings, and less-than-clean dentures.

Several internal medical conditions also can cause your breath to go downhill fast. They include diabetes, liver disease, respiratory tract infections, and chronic bronchitis. You'll want to see your doctor to rule out things like acid reflux, postnasal drip, and other causes of chronic dry mouth (xerostomia).

Woodall recalls a 30-year-old patient who had chronic bad breath, though her teeth were "immaculate" and her tongue was very clean. Her doctor tested her for acid reflux and other stomach conditions, "gave her some medicine, and her bad breath went away," Woodall says.

See Your Dentist, Brush Your Teeth

Nixed medical causes for your bad breath? Keep your scheduled dental appointments.

"You really want to see your dentist every six months or at least yearly," Frangella says.

Next Article:

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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