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It’s among the top questions asked of dentists. Halitosis (bad breath) is a common and sometimes persistent condition that can be freshened in the short term and avoided longer term.

One of the most common questions asked of dentists

Looking to dampen a romantic moment, an intimate conversation, or special kiss with the grandkids? Look no further than your breath.

It’s among the top questions asked of dentists. Halitosis (bad breath) is a common and sometimes persistent condition that can be freshened in the short term and avoided longer term.

In most cases, the causes are simple and straightforward, but bad breath can also be an indication something is seriously wrong.

The culprits

Food. What you put in your mouth will affect your breath in two ways. First, there are some foods that cause an unpleasant odour when you exhale—garlic and onions being the classic examples. As well, food that stays in your mouth because you haven’t brushed or flossed in a while will collect bacteria, which also creates breath odour. Interestingly, eating too infrequently may also cause bad breath as dieters often discover.

Oral bacteria. Bad breath that persists may be an indication you have a problem with plaque, which causes gum disease. A cavity can also cause bad breath. Have your dentist take a look to see if there is a problem.

Dry mouth. When there is too little saliva in your mouth, food particles stick around and bad breath can result. Many medications cause dry mouth, and some medical conditions that promote breathing through the mouth can do the same. You’re also likely to get a whiff of halitosis in the morning before you brush your teeth or if a long time passes between meals. Both are instances where salvia flow has been reduced.

Smoking. This will come as no surprise, but tobacco isn’t breath friendly. It dries the mouth and irritates some tissue.

Unclean dentures. Just like teeth, dentures require regular and thorough cleaning. When they’re not fresh, your breath won’t be either.

Infection. A throat, sinus or lung infection can cause bad breath.

Medical conditions. Some liver and kidney diseases cause bad breath. It can also be a warning sign of oral cancer and lesions in the mouth. Persistent bad breath should be discussed with your dentist.

The treatment

For most bad breath, there is good news. It can be treated easily. Daily brushing and flossing are necessary to remove food particles and the bacteria that like to call your mouth home. Good brushing includes your tongue. Tongue scrapers are recommended by many dental professionals and can be purchased at your local pharmacy.

A mouthwash with antibacterial properties and no alcohol is also helpful to combat bad breath on short notice. For people with dry mouth, there are special saliva supplement rinses.

According to the New Brunswick Dental Society, you can do more than freshen bad breath, you can help to avoid it the first place. Here’s how:

  • Drink plenty of water to flush away bacteria and keep your mouth from getting too dry
  • Use sugarless gum or candies to moisten your mouth and freshen your breath
  • Use mouthwash before bedtime to kill bacteria
  • Bad breath is unpleasant, but it is not uncommon. The dental society reports as many as 75 per cent of Canadians fret about their breath at least once a day. If it’s on your worry list, talk with your dentist about the cause and what you can do to freshen your mouth.

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