Health & Wellness

Bad breath blues? 9 ways to tame dragon mouth

Forget about leaning in. If your sweetie or friends are leaning away, that might be a sign you need to reevaluate your oral hygiene.

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Flossing is a good way to avoid dragon breath.

While fresh breath is important for everyone, a recent study shows that for couples, it matters a lot. In fact, 60 percent of U.S. adults with partners say that their partner’s oral health — the state of their teeth, gums and breath — plays a big role in their level of intimacy.

While for some folks, chronic bad breath is a symptom of a larger health problem, the rest of us who simply experience a little morning dragon breath, or the occasional post-dinner stinkiness, can usually freshen things up pretty quickly.

Of course, there are scores of commercially available toothpastes, mouthwashes and dental floss we can use to keep our teeth, gums, and tongues in tip-top shape. But there are a number of other ways to make our mouths smell nice.

TODAY consulted oral hygiene experts who shared the nine best ways to keep your breath smelling fresh.

1. Brush and floss correctly.

For starters, make sure you’re nailing the basics of brushing and flossing. You don't want bacteria, or worse, plaque and tartar in your mouth.

“We tell our patients to brush two or three times a day, with a thorough brushing and flossing at least once, but preferably twice a day,” says Dr. Thomas M. Wall, a dentist in Washington DC.

Though he says recommendations for each patient differ, he tells most to use a soft, ADA-approved toothbrush and toothpaste with fluoride.

Flossing, too, is crucial.

“A toothbrush will cover all the areas around the teeth except for where the teeth actually contact each other so you have to floss in between to break up the plaque and food debris, which can cause bad breath.”

2. Use a tongue scraper.

You should scrape your tongue every day. Tongue scrapers play a role in eliminating plaque and food debris, Wall says, and can be found in most drug stores and health food stores.

3. See your dentist twice a year.

Keep up with dental cleanings and be sure to get annual X-rays of your teeth.

“Bad breath can be caused by cavities, root absorptions, and lots of other conditions that are found in the mouth,” says Wall. “There’s no way to know what’s going on in there unless a professional looks in your mouth and takes X-rays."

4. Drink more water.

A number of the culprits that cause bad breath can be dealt with by simply bumping up your water intake, says Dr. Gigi Meinecke, spokesperson of the Academy of General Dentistry.

One is acid-reflux, which a 2012 Tufts University study suggests can be alleviated by drinking more water.

Another is post-nasal drip, says Meinecke, which she says is a more common cause of halitosis than most people know. Increasing water, she says, helps loosen up secretions in the back of the throat, thereby freshening up the area.

A dry mouth also contributes to bad breath. Dry mouth happens when there isn't enough saliva in the mouth. It's why we get morning breath. It's especially common in people who take certain medications. “There are over 400 prescription and over-the-counter medications that list dry mouth as a side effect,” says Meinecke. Drinking more water moistens the mouth and helps things run smoothly.

5. Eat more crunchy, raw foods.

“Crunchy vegetables have a low-water content, so if you’re eating them, you have to produce more saliva in order to get it down your throat,” says Meinecke. “Increasing saliva in your mouth and having more salivary flow is good."

6. Consider a saltwater gargle.

Meinecke says gargling with saltwater could benefit anyone who has crypts, or pockets, in their tonsil area. “Those crypts get junk in them and they get schtunky,” says Meinecke. Gargling with saltwater could help dislodge anything that's become stuck, she says. But don’t go overboard with the salt.

Use one teaspoon of salt in six ounces of water.

7. Chew gum.

Chewing sugarless gum can help freshen breath and not only because gum comes in fresh minty flavors. “Chewing gum increases salivary production,” Meinecke says, which moistens the mouth..

8. Be mindful of stinky foods.

Onions, garlic, spicy dishes — even coffee — all have smells that linger in our mouths up to 72 hours after we ingest them, experts say.

If you're going to partake, just know your mouth may let others know you have.

9. Don’t smoke!

There’s a reason they call it “smoker’s breath.” That nasty sour smell is partly from smoke particles that get stuck in the mouth, throat, and lungs after smoking cigarettes.

The smell of just one cigarette can linger in your lungs for hours, according to the website of California Breath Clinic founder Dr. Harold Katz.

Additionally, chemicals found in tobacco add to the stink. As if that’s not enough, tobacco also dries out the mouth, which contributes to the unpleasantness.

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