While popping a breath mint or swishing some mouthwash can generally freshen breath before a meeting or a date, if you find you’re chronically battling bad breath, or what dentists and health experts refer to as Halitosis, there may be one or more legitimate medical issues causing the problem — and addressing them (rather than masking the symptoms with some gum) can help clear it up. We spoke with a dentist, Dr. Mahnaz Rashti, who let us in on some causes and some possible solutions for bad breath.
Rashti says halitosis has “multifactorial causes,” which means it’s usually caused by a combination of things. He gave us this list, saying that he usually sees a combination of two or more of these ailments when he treats someone with bad breath: periodontal disease (gum disease), cavities, oral abscesses, sinus infections or inflammation caused by allergies, gastrointestinal illness, dry mouth or Xerostomia, dehydration, tonsillar stones and infections, systemic disease such as cancer being treated by chemotherapy, certain medications and recreational drugs, certain foods like coffee, alcohol, and garlic, and smoking.
Bad breath solutions
With all of these things in mind, we asked Dr. Rashti if it’s possible to totally eliminate bad breath. He replied, “Considering all of the above as some of the numerous reasons, one could possibly control bad breath, yet total elimination is only possible if all the above is eliminated.” In other words, rather than masking the symptoms, it’s essential you see a dentist to make sure you’re properly taking care of any medical condition that could be underlying the breath issue.
That said, there are several things you can do to help control bad breath and keep yourself feeling fresher throughout the day. If you have periodontal disease or abscesses, Dr. Rashti says the solution is proper oral hygiene, seeing a periodontist to treat the disease, and maintenance. Similarly, if you have cavities, you need to do the same thing. If you have dry mouth, key solutions are staying hydrated and rinsing your mouth with water and non-alcoholic mouthwash (alcohol can actually increase dryness).
Additionally, if you’re dealing with sinus troubles due to infection or allergies, Rashti suggests seeing an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat specialist) or an allergist. Using neti pots with sinus irrigation can also help to eliminate allergens and decrease inflammation. With regard to hygiene, Dr. Rashti suggests scraping your tongue thoroughly each time you brush and floss (at least twice per day). And if you smoke, quitting smoking will not only protect your health, but also improve your breath.
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