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Bye-bye, B.O.

Beastly breath

More than 80 million Americans suffer from chronic bad breath (halitosis), which occurs when bacteria that live in the mouth feast on decaying food particles, then produce smelly sulfur compounds. What you eat can cause dragon breath too. “Pungent foods like garlic and onions are absorbed by the stomach and then released from the lungs for up to 72 hours after you’ve eaten them,” says Paul Bussman, D.M.D., spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. If your gums bleed or are red or swollen, and your breath reeks, you may have a treatable gum disease like gingivitis.

What to do: Use a scraper or brush on your tongue every time you brush your teeth (at least twice a day or after every meal) to get rid of bacteria. Daily flossing and twice-annual dentist visits are equally important. Low concentrations of carbamide peroxide, a tooth-bleaching agent, can destroy odor-generating bacteria and sulfur compounds for up to a year. The approximately $600 treatment is first administered by your dentist, then completed at home over 10 days. Though most insurance companies won’t pay for this procedure, if you suffer from truly toxic breath, you may find it’s more than worth the cash.

Originally published on June 27, 2008

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