Bad breath, also called halitosis, has many causes.
The breakdown of food particles and other debris by bacteria in and around your teeth can cause a foul odor. If your mouth becomes dry, dead cells can accumulate and decompose on your tongue, gums and cheeks, causing odor. Eating foods containing oils with strong odor, such as onions and garlic, can lead to bad breath.
The good news is that there also are many ways to prevent bad breath. They include:
• Brush your teeth after you eat. Keep a toothbrush at work to use after eating. Brush using a fluoride-containing toothpaste at least twice a day, especially after meals. Toothpaste with antibacterial properties has been shown to reduce bad breath odors.
• Floss at least once a day. Flossing removes food particles and plaque from between your teeth.
• Brush your tongue. Your tongue harbors bacteria, so carefully brushing it may reduce odors. People who have a coated tongue from a significant overgrowth of bacteria such as smoking or dry mouth may benefit from using a tongue scraper. Or use a toothbrush that has a built-in tongue cleaner.
• Clean dentures or dental appliances. If you wear a bridge or a denture, clean it thoroughly at least once a day or as directed by your dentist. If you have a dental retainer or mouthguard, clean it each time before you put it in your mouth. Your dentist can recommend the best cleaning product.
• Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist. That’s water — not coffee, soft drinks or alcohol, which can lead to a drier mouth. Chewing gum or sucking on candy also stimulates saliva. For chronic dry mouth, your dentist or physician may prescribe an artificial saliva preparation or oral medication that stimulates the flow of saliva.
• Avoid foods such as onions and garlic that can cause bad breath. Eating a lot of sugary foods also is linked to bad breath.
• Change your toothbrush when it becomes frayed, which typically is about every three to four months. Also, choose a soft-bristled toothbrush.
• Schedule regular dental checkups — generally twice a year — to have your teeth or dentures cleaned.
• Chew fresh parsley. It can improve bad breath temporarily.