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Why Do I Have Bad Breath?

Canyon Ranch Reviewer: 
Updated on: 
September 11, 2014

Q: My breath is often less than fresh, sometimes just a short while after brushing my teeth. What could be the cause and what can I do about it? I’m self-conscious about how bad my breath is.

A: You may feel embarrassed, but it may be helpful to remember that all of us have bad breath from time to time. The underlying reasons, however, can vary from person to person.

Though you may diligently brush twice a day (or more), bacteria can still build up in your mouth and between your teeth, which can cause an undesirable odor. Try not to skip flossing and gently brushing or scraping your tongue, which can get rid of what remains; a swish of mouthwash can help, too.

Of course, you’re probably already aware that eating certain foods—raw onions, garlic, curries—have a tendency to linger. But not drinking enough water can also play into bad breath, too. Munch on crunchy fruits and vegetables, which can actually help keep your mouth clean and fresh, and stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Chewing sugarless gum may also help because it increases your own natural saliva production, one of your body’s best defenses against bad breath.

Finally, smoking inevitably affects your breath. So if you do smoke, that’s one more reason to quit.

If you’ve tried these suggestions without success, it may be time for a visit to your dentist, who should check for gum disease, an abscessed tooth and cavities. He or she may also recommend seeing your doctor, particularly if the smell is potent, worsening or accompanied by other symptoms. Though rarer, bad breath can sometimes point to sinusitis, a throat infection or more serious concerns, like diabetes, kidney failure or esophageal cancer.

More: Your Mouth, Your Health