Top 10 ways to fight bad breath

How to fight bad breath

More than 80 million people suffer from chronic halitosis, or bad breath. In most cases it originates from the gums and tongue.

Bad breath can be very embarrassing, but it is a common condition and there are numerous ways to fight it. Following these tips can help you fight bad breath as well as keep your mouth healthy on a daily basis.

  1. Brush teeth twice a day.
    • Brush your teeth two to three minutes at least twice a day to remove plaque and food debris. It’s very important to brush your teeth before going to bed. You might try an additional round of brushing with baking soda to reduce the acidity in the mouth and make it difficult for the bacteria that cause bad breath to grow.
  2. Floss daily.
    • Flossing will remove food debris from in between the teeth that a toothbrush can't reach. If the food debris is not removed, the bacteria will begin to feed on it, causing bad breath.
  3. Brush or scrape your tongue.
    • To remove any residue that may be building up between the taste buds and folds in the tongue, invest in an inexpensive tool called a tongue scraper, which is available in drugstores. If you don’t have a tongue scraper, you can use your toothbrush to brush your tongue.
  4. Use a mouth rinse.
    • Keep in mind that if a dental problem is the cause of chronic bad breath, a mouth rinse will only mask the odor and not cure it. In some cases, mouth rinses may actually worsen a bad breath problem by irritating oral tissue. For an emergency freshen-up, try a quick rinse with a mix of water and a few drops of peppermint oil. Or rinse your mouth with black or green tea: according to a study by the University of Illinois at Chicago, rinsing your mouth with black or green tea suppresses the growth of bacteria that cause mouth odor.
  5. Visit your dentist.
    • The best way to make sure that you are maintaining good oral hygiene is to visit your dentist regularly. If you have chronic bad breath, you should visit your dentist first, to rule out any dental problems. Or, if your dentist believes that the problem is caused from a systemic (internal) source such as an infection, he or she may refer you to your family physician or a specialist to help remedy the cause of the problem.
  6. Quit smoking and avoid tobacco products.
    • If you ever needed another reason to quit, here’s an easy one: smoking contributes to bad breath. Tobacco tends to dry out your mouth and can leave an unpleasant smell that lingers even after brushing your teeth.
  7. Wet your whistle.
    • Be sure to drink a sufficient amount of water (six to eight 8-ounce glasses) daily to avoid dry mouth. Drinking water will help keep odor under control because it helps wash away food particles and bacteria, the primary cause of bad breath. If you have chronic dry mouth or take medications that cause you to have dry mouth, talk to your dentist about recommending an over-the-counter saliva substitute.
  8. Eat a piece of sugarless candy or chew sugarless gum.
    • If you have dry mouth, try sucking on a piece of sugarless candy or chew sugarless gum to stimulate saliva flow. The saliva will help to wash away food debris and bacteria that cause bad breath.
  9. Munch on a carrot, a stick of celery or an apple.
    • Snacks of crispy, fresh fruits and vegetables step up your saliva flow between meals to help wash away bacteria from teeth, tongue and gums that can cause bad breath. These snacks can also help alleviate bad breath caused by hunger or fasting. An empty stomach from skipping meals can cause foul breath as acids in the stomach build up.
  10. Eat your parsley.
    • Parsley adds more than a green garnish to your lunch plate; it's also a breath-saver because it contains chlorophyll, a known breath deodorizer. So pick up that sprig on your plate and chew it thoroughly. Or toss a few handfuls in a juicer and sip the juice when you need to refresh your breath.
Information courtesy of the Academy of General Dentistry
Last updated: October 2011

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

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