There’s little more embarrassing than having bad breath, particularly in social or professional situations where you’re interacting with people in close quarters. Bad breath can ruin a date or make a meeting uncomfortable. Not to mention, most people don’t enjoy the self-consciousness and foul taste in the mouth that accompanies it.

If your bad breath is more than occasional, you might even be suffering from its chronic form: halitosis.

attractive young woman brushing her teeth in front of her bathroom mirror

If you’re suffering from bad breath, what can you do to fix it? Here are a few suggestions to get your mouth minty fresh so you can focus on more important things during conversations — like what you’re actually saying!

1. Brush and Floss Your Teeth

If you’re not brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily, this is an important first step. Over the course of the day, food particles and bacteria begin to stick to your teeth. If you don’t clean them off, that sticky film, called plaque, can harden into something called tartar, which can only be removed by your dentist.

This bacteria and food-filled mess on your teeth has a distinctly unpleasant odor and can contribute to bad breath. Brushing and flossing can clear plaque away from your teeth, and the bad smell with it. It’s incredibly important to floss once per day, otherwise, the plaque that gets stuck between your teeth and under the gum line will continue to fuel your bad breath and contribute to gum disease and tooth decay.

2. Clean Your Tongue

If brushing and flossing simply aren’t helping your bad breath, there’s more you can do. A lot of those smell-causing bacteria stick to the mucus coating on your tongue. This is why it’s also important to clean your tongue at the same time you brush and floss your teeth. To clean your tongue, use a tongue scraper or a toothbrush. Adding some toothpaste into the mix will help you achieve even better breath than brushing or scraping alone. Cleaning your tongue can help enhance your breath and also make your mouth taste better.

3. Use Mouthwash

Mouthwash can also enhance your breath, but only certain types. Despite extravagant claims from mouthwash companies (and a superficial “minty freshness” that’s actually just masking your mouth’s real odor), mouthwash can actually make bad breath worse. Some mouthwashes contain up to 25% alcohol, which dries out the mouth. Since saliva helps keep your mouth clean and wash away bacteria, drying out the mouth can give bacteria a boost, making your breath even more toxic.

If you want to enhance your breath with mouthwash, skip mouthwash that contains alcohol and opt for mouthwash specially designed to fight bad breath. Some options include Therabreath Fresh Breath Oral Rinse, Oral-B Breath Therapy, CloSYS Sensitive Mouthwash, and BreathRX. Feel free to ask our hygienists what they recommend during your next appointment!

4. Quit Smoking

If you’re a smoker, you probably know that the smell of tobacco products alone can make your breath unpleasant for those around you. But did you know that it isn’t just the smoke smell that worsens your bad breath? Tobacco, like alcohol, has a tendency to dry out the saliva production in your mouth, which can allow bacteria to run rampant. So even if your breath doesn’t smell like smoke, you may still be suffering from bad breath as a result of bacteria.

5. Visit Your Columbia Dentist Regularly

If you have persistent bad breath, there’s a good chance that you have gum disease, cavities, or some type of infection in your mouth. You should visit our Columbia dentist every six months for a dental cleaning and exam. We will remove any plaque and tartar from your mouth and also search for signs of infection, decay, or gum disease. If any problems do persist, we can address them before they get worse.

6. Optimize Your Diet

Sugar and starches are the main sources that contribute to plaque and bacteria accumulation. Optimizing your diet and reducing your intake of sugar and starches can improve your breath. Stick to lean meats, fresh fruit and vegetables, and whole grains. If you do consume sugary or starchy food, make sure to rinse your mouth with water or brush your teeth after you’re done. Your breath won’t just thank you for a healthier diet, so will your teeth and overall health!

7. Stay Hydrated

One of the leading causes of bad breath is dry mouth. When you don’t produce enough saliva, there is nothing there to wash all the bacteria out of your mouth. Drinking enough water can help you stay hydrated and prevent bacteria from sticking around in your mouth for too long. Try to drink at least 64 ounces of water per day.

8. Chew Gum

If you can’t brush your teeth, at the very least, chew on a piece of sugar-free minty gum. Chewing gum can help increase saliva production to wash away bacteria and the minty flavor can mask any smells happening in your mouth.

Still Have Bad Breath? How to Stop Bad Breath For Good

If you make all these changes and find that you still have bad breath, it’s likely that your breath is a symptom of more serious oral health problems. The smelliest bacteria thrive in places where oxygen is scarce, like deep inside an infected tooth or below your gum line. So if your breath isn’t resolving, it may be a sign that you need root canal therapy or gum disease treatment.

If you’re dealing with chronic bad breath, the best thing you can do is talk to your Columbia dentist about it. While it may be a simple problem of oral hygiene, it could also be a sign of serious oral health problems. Call (803) 781-9090 or contact us online to make an appointment and learn more about bad breath and how to solve it.