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It’s easy to improve your breath and keep your teeth and gums healthy at the same time. Try these simple steps to make your mouth feel fresh and clean.

1. Brush and floss more often.

Plaque, the sticky buildup on your teeth, collects bacteria that can cause bad breath. Trapped food can also add to the problem.

Brush your teeth at least two times each day, and floss at least once. If you’re concerned about your breath, do both a little more often. Don’t overdo things, though. If you brush too hard you can wear down your teeth and gums, making them vulnerable.

2. Rinse your mouth out.

Besides freshening your breath, a mouthwash adds extra protection by getting rid of bacteria. A fresh minty taste can make you feel good. But be sure the mouthwash you choose kills the germs that cause bad breath. Don’t just cover up the smell. Rinse daily with a good mouthwash and stop bad breath at its source.

You can also help your breath if you swish your mouth with plain water after you eat. It can help get rid of food particles that get stuck in your teeth.

3. Scrape your tongue.

The coating that normally forms on your tongue can be a host for smelly bacteria. To get rid of them, gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush.

If your brush is too big to comfortably reach the back of your tongue, try a scraper.

4. Avoid foods that sour your breath.

Onions and garlic are big offenders. But brushing after you eat them doesn’t always help.

The substances that cause their bad smells make their way into your bloodstream and travel to your lungs, where you breathe them out.

The best way to stop the problem? Don’t eat them, or at least avoid them before you go to work or see friends.

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5. Kick the tobacco habit.

Besides causing cancer, smoking can damage your gums, stain your teeth, and give you bad breath.

Over-the-counter nicotine patches can help tame the urge. If you need a little help, make an appointment with your doctor to talk about quit-smoking programs or prescription medications that can help you give up tobacco for good.

6. Skip after-dinner mints and chew gum instead.

The bacteria in your mouth love sugar. They use it to make acid. This wears down your teeth and causes bad breath. Chew sugarless gum instead.

Gum stimulates saliva, which is the mouth’s natural defence mechanism against plaque acids, which cause tooth decay and bad breath.

7. Keep your gums healthy.

Gum disease causes bad breath. Bacteria gather in pockets at the base of teeth, which creates an odour.

If you have gum disease, your dentist may suggest you see a periodontist, who specializes in treating it.

8. Moisten your mouth.

You can get tooth decay and bad breath if you don’t make enough saliva. If your mouth is dry, drink plenty of water during the day.

9. See your doctor.

If your bad breath continues despite your best efforts, make an appointment with your doctor. They’ll check to see if your problems are related to a medical condition.

Sources

SOURCES:

Leslie Seldin, DDS, spokesman, American Dental Association.

Richard Price, DMD, spokesman, American Dental Association.

Pamela L. Quinones, RDH, past president, American Dental Hygienists’ Association.

American Dental Association: “Bad Breath (Halitosis),” “Diet and Tooth Decay.”

American Dental Hygienists’ Association: “Understanding and Eliminating Bad Breath.”

Rosing, C, Brazilian Oral Research, September-October 2011.

Roldan, S. Journal of Periodontology, June 2005.

Malhotra, S. Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, July-September 2011.

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