5 Ways to Freshen Bad Breath

If you feel like your breath is less than fresh, try these tips to clean it up

A friend corners you at a cocktail party, dying to hear how you’ve been doing. You want to hear her story, too, but all you can do is nod, smile and duck away -- fast. Her breath is too pungent. As we all know, even the most riveting story can be ruined by foul breath. If you suspect your breath could be pushing people away, here’s how to make it sweeter.

Brush often: According to Hadie Rifai, D.D.S., a dentist at Cleveland Clinic, if you don't brush and floss daily, food particles get stuck between the teeth, on the tongue and around your gums, rotting and collecting bacteria that cause bad breath. Rifai recommends brushing after every meal for two minutes, using circular strokes with a soft-bristled brush and flossing daily.

Don't forget your tongue: Some people have a lot of crevices in their tongue, where food and bacteria can hide. Smokers and people with dry mouth are especially prone to a buildup of stinky food particles and bacteria. Brushing your tongue or using a tongue scraper each time you brush will help remove food debris and odor-causing bacteria. One study found it cut sulfur compounds by 53 percent. Karyn Kahn, D.D.S., a dentist at Cleveland Clinic, suggests gently brushing inside your cheeks and the roof of your mouth as well.

Fight dry mouth: If your mouth is as arid as the Sahara Desert, douse it with water throughout the day. Sip on plain water to stimulate saliva production and keep your mouth moist. Saliva neutralizes tooth-damaging acids and contains minerals that help rebuild the teeth. Sucking on sugar-free lozenges can also help keep the juices flowing. Avoid caffeine, sugary drinks, tobacco and alcohol, which can dry out the mouth even more. Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause dry mouth; if it’s troubling you, talk to your doctor about possible medication alternatives. If none of these remedies help, talk to your dentist about artificial saliva medications.

Choose your mouthwash wisely: It used to be that minty mouthwashes simply masked malodorous breath. But a systematic review by The Cochrane Library found that it's antibacterial rinses that take the edge off of bad breath by addressing the actual causes. Look for a mouthwash that contains any of the following ingredients: chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium, chlorine dioxide or zinc lactate. Just steer clear of mouthwash containing alcohol, which can leave your mouth parched. When you don’t have enough saliva to wash away food and neutralize acids produced by plaque, you can bring on bad breath as well as tooth decay.

Eat some yogurt: Some preliminary evidence suggests that you may be able to keep bad breath at bay by eating plain yogurt. A small study found that people who ate two three-ounce servings of yogurt daily for six weeks reduced levels of bad breath-causing hydrogen sulfides by 80 percent. Though more research is needed to confirm these findings, calcium-rich yogurt will help keep teeth strong, even if it doesn’t work its magic on halitosis.

More from Cleveland Clinic
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