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What You Should Know about Bad Breath

Watch TV any night of the week and you’ll see commercials for products that promise to eliminate bad breath. It’s a common and embarrassing condition, but there are remedies. “Whether you call it bad breath or halitosis, it’s unpleasant and can be caused by a number of sources that you and your dentist can address and treat,” says Dr. Rex Card, a Raleigh, N.C. dentist.
“Mouthwash will only mask the odor temporarily,” says Dr. Card. “Mouthwashes are mostly cosmetic and do not have a long-lasting effect on bad breath. If you must constantly use a breath freshener to hide unpleasant mouth odor, see your dentist.”Dr. Card cites a number of possible causes of bad breath, including food, dry mouth, tobacco and medical conditions. “What we eat affects the air we exhale,” says Dr. Card, “and onions and garlic and sometimes dairy products are among the worst offenders. If you don’t floss and brush every day, particles of food can remain in the mouth collecting bacteria that can cause bad breath. Dieters may develop unpleasant breath from infrequent eating.”
“Dry mouth occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. It can be caused by some medications, salivary gland problems or continuously breathing through the mouth,” says Dr. Card. “Without enough saliva, food particles are not washed away.” He/she adds that dentists can prescribe an artificial saliva or suggest using sugarless candy or increasing fluid intake to alleviate the problem.
Using tobacco can cause bad breath. “In addition to staining your teeth and leading to other health issues, smoking or using other tobacco products can add to bad breath problems. Tobacco also reduces the ability to taste, irritates gums, and raises the risk of developing oral cancer. Best to ask your dentist how to kick the habit.”
Sometimes, there are underlying medical conditions that can cause bad breath. “Sinus or lung infections, bronchitis, diabetes, and some liver or kidney diseases may be associated with bad breath,” says Dr. Card.  “If you’re worried about what’s causing your bad breath consult with your dentist. Regular oral checkups can help detect problems such as gum disease or dry mouth or look for signs of a medical disorder that might be causing the problem. If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your primary care physician,” says Dr. Card. “The main remedy in most cases is to maintain good oral hygiene, eliminating gum disease and scheduling regular professional cleanings. These are essential to reducing bad breath,” advises Dr. Card. “Brush twice a day and clean between your teeth daily with floss. Brush your tongue, too. If you wear dentures, be sure to remove them at night and clean them thoroughly before replacing them the next morning.”
Additional information about bad breath can be found by visiting or The N.C. Dental Society represents 3,600 dentists throughout North Carolina. The NCDS encourages improvement of the oral health of the public, promotes the art and science of dentistry, sustains high standards of professional competence and practice, and represents the interests of the members of the dental profession and the public which it serves.