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This is a subject that a lot of people are embarrassed to discuss. Bad breath, or halitosis, can be pretty embarrassing. However it is very common. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to cure bad breath, and for the most part prevent it from recurring.

Waiting for someone else to notice your bad breath is not advisable. Actually, you can quickly test it for yourself. Just lick the inside of your wrist using the back of your tongue, and smell it after a few seconds. This should give you an idea of what your breath smells like. Don’t worry most people have suffered from bad breath at some time in their lives.

First, a little background. Bad breath is caused by bacteria build-up on the teeth, and tongue – these bacteria produce malodorous compounds and gases in your mouth. The majority of cases of bad breath are caused by poor oral hygiene. Sometimes bad breath is only short-term from eating or drinking certain foods like coffee, cheese, garlic and onions. But items like cigarettes and alcohol can also contribute to the condition, and they can sometimes leave a long term condition.

It is important to remember that there are a few medical problems that can cause bad breath. The most common of these is xerostomia, or dry mouth, which limits salivary flow. Dry mouth is a side effect of some medication, and can also be caused by problems in the salivary gland. Infections in the throat, lungs, or nose can be a contributing factor, as well as kidney or liver conditions.

So how do you combat the bacteria and keep plaque at bay? Excellent oral hygiene is the key. It is important to develop good habits. The usual regular brushing and flossing as well as using an antibacterial mouthwash will help to reduce, if not eliminate, bad breath issues. Small pieces of food stuck between the teeth play a part and it is important to remove them. Pay special attention to cleaning the tongue, as a large amount of bacteria can form here. You can use a tongue scraper (be gentle with this!) or a toothbrush to clean your tongue. Gargling with an antibacterial mouthwash before sleeping will help – and can even reduce the risk of ‘morning breath’!

Avoid strong foods such as garlic, onions and coffee. If you smoke, this will have a significant effect on the taste in and dryness of your mouth and consequently the smell of your breath. If you eat rougher foods such as bran flakes, particularly at breakfast time, they can help to clean the back of your tongue. Drink plenty of water (6-8 glasses daily) and exercise regularly. All these will help to eliminate bad breath problems in the long-term.

Chewing gum after food and mouth spray can help with bad breath in the short-term. However, these usually simply cover up the smell and aren’t a permanent solution.

There are many alternative and home remedies that have been known to help with bad breath. Chewing on fennel seeds, cardamom pods, areca nut, betel leaf or even parsley are among these.

If bad breath problems persist, you should discuss this with your dentist during your next visit, as there may be a deeper underlying problem.