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Bad Breath (Halitosis)

All of us have had to endure garlic breath at one point or another... But bad breath, also called halitosis, can sometimes indicate an underlying problem that cannot be solved with gum or mouthwash.


Bad breath is usually the result of poor oral hygiene or untreated oral disease, such as tooth decay, abscess, or unhealthy gums. People who do not brush or floss their teeth properly often have bad breath.

Smoking also causes bad breath as does alcohol abuse. More rarely, bad breath is the consequence of stomach or lung disease, or tonsillitis, or diabetes.


Impeccable oral hygiene is the best way to prevent bad breath: brush your teeth after each meal, floss daily, and visit a dentist at least once a year.

Here are some suggestions for oral hygiene:

  • Brush your tongue as well as your teeth; food debris can accumulate on the tongue's surface.
  • If you cannot brush your teeth after a meal, rinse your mouth vigorously with water to get rid of the food debris that may have got stuck between your teeth.
  • Floss before you brush so that the fluoride and other toothpaste ingredients can reach between your teeth when you brush. Flossing is best done at bedtime since it prevents plaque-causing bacteria from staying in contact with tooth enamel during the night.
  • Toothbrushes, used 3-4 times a day and kept well maintained, should be replaced every 3 months.
  • Dentures should be cleaned carefully each day.

If you still have bad breath despite following a strict oral hygiene regimen, consult your dentist who should be able to identify the problem. Lastly, see your physician if your dentist fails to uncover the cause of your halitosis.

Remember that toothpastes, lozenges, and mouthwash do not cure bad breath: they merely mask it temporarily.

And if you eat too much garlic or onions, well, be patient, the smell won't last forever...

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