Bad breath — it's something we all face, whether we want to admit it or not. But while occasional bad breath is nothing to be alarmed at (who's breath smells good after chowing down on a tuna fish sandwich?) halitosis, the scientific term for consistent bad breath, shouldn't be ignored. FIRST for Women turned to New Jersey-based dentist Dr. Luis G. Molina, DDS, to get the skinny on what causes this condition — and how to fight it.
What causes bad breath?
While many of us tend to associate bad breath with pungent foods like garlic, onions, and fish, the root causes of bad breath is a little more complex. "It’s definitely not one thing, it’s a system of things," Dr. Molina shares,
The top cause of halitosis is (surprise, surprise!) bad oral hygiene. When you don't take care of your mouth, you can end up with a whole host of problems, including cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay — a particularly big culprit behind bad breath. "The most important thing to do is to brush and floss your teeth to prevent decay, because that’ll linger no matter how many bad breath products you use."
While oral care may be the top reason your breath is smelling a little gnarly, other factors, such as your diet, medical conditions, and medications can also play a role, especially since many medicines can cause dry mouth.
"When people are on certain medications, one of the most common side effects is dry mouth," says Molina. "If you have dry mouth, you usually get more cavities because there’s no water or saliva in your mouth. [As a result], food gets stuck in your teeth, and then the decay and bacteria can literally rot the tooth out when its in a dry environment."
How to Prevent of Bad Breath
According to Dr. Molina, preventing bad breath isn't as complicated as it may seem. "Brushing and flossing is the number one thing. After that, it’s going to see your dentist every six months to make sure nothing is dentally wrong."
If dry mouth is at the root of your problem, keeping your mouth moist is another thing you can do to keep bad breath at bay. "Dry mouth and not drinking enough water also play a role in bad breath, so the more water you drink, the more it’ll help," he shares.
Best Bad Breath Remedies
If you're already beyond the prevention stage, there's no need to fret. We picked Dr. Molina's brain for five top-notch solutions for bad breath, from handy preventative tools to ace rinses that he himself swears by to keep mouths healthy and germ-free. Keep scrolling for FIRST's picks for the best bad breath remedies you need to know about.
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Best Tongue Scraper for Bad Breath — Dr. Tung's Tongue Cleaner
Where to buy: $6.19, Amazon
One of the easiest ways you can eliminate bad breath is by scraping your tongue. "When you brush your teeth, you should always be brushing or scraping your tongue, too," says Molina. He explains that your tongue is like a sponge, so it can trap food particles and bacteria, all which can lead to — you guessed it! — bad breath. For a great tongue scraper, go with this top-rated Dr. Tung's tongue cleaner. Adjustable, hygienic, and easy-to-use, you can simply drag it across your tongue for fresher breath in a flash.
Best Mouthwash for Bad Breath — CloSYS
Where to buy: $11.23 (Originally $12.99), Amazon
For Molina's top bad breath pick, CloSYS is the way to go. "CloSYS is one of my favorite products," he shares. "It’s great and doesn’t burn your mouth at all. It’s also great for people who notice a little blood when they’re brushing, because it helps stop the bleeding, which can also cause bad breath."
Designed to reduce harmful bacteria that irritate gums and lead to halitosis, CloSYS is pH balanced to reduce acid levels in the mouth that are harmful to tooth enamel and increase the potential for germ growth. Made with Cloralstan, a powerful ingredient that stops plaque formation, instead of alcohol, this rinse is also a dream for those with sensitive mouths since there will be no burning or staining.
Best Electric Toothbrush for Bad Breath — Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean
Where to buy: $99.99, Amazon
With brushing being the number one way to prevent bad breath, you'll want to make sure you get the job done right with a top-notch electric toothbrush, like this Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100. Designed for those with dental issues in mind, this toothbrush uses unique sonic technology to sweep away plaque, giving you an amazingly effective, yet gentle, clean. It's also equipped with three intensity settings, three cleaning modes, and a pressure sensor that will gently pulse to alert you when you're brushing too hard. You can rest assured that with this powerful brush, your teeth will be whiter and breath fresher.
Best Toothpaste for Bad Breath — CloSYS Fluoride Toothpaste
Where to buy: $10.99 (Originally $12.99), Amazon
The perfect companion to the brand's mouth rinse, this CloSYS fluoride toothpaste makes for a great addition to any dental regimen. "The most important thing about toothpaste is to use one with fluoride to make your teeth stronger, as recommended by the ADA," says Molina. "Toothpaste that has some fluoride in it will prevent tooth decay and will, in turn, prevent bad breath."
Gentle on gums, enamel, and dental work, this gentle paste uses a unique combination of ingredients to kill harmful bacteria that cause plaque build-up, helping to prevent cavities and neutralize odor-causing compounds.
Best Water Flosser for Bad Breath — Waterpik
Where to buy: $69.99 (Originally $99.99), Amazon
As Dr. Molina mentions, alongside brushing, the most effective way to prevent bad breath is to floss, so as to remove any food particles left behind. The easiest and most effective way to floss is with a water flosser. For one that's got a stamp of approval from the American Dental Association, try this Waterpik cordless version. Removing up to 99.9 percent of plaque, it's 50 percent more effective than dental floss at improving gum health. Simply fill the reservoir with water, point the tip at your gumline, and enjoy healthier gums — and fresher breath!
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