Bad breath? Mints can hide it, but they cannot fix it

Eliminating bad breath with mint

Bad breath can be a nuisance and an embarrassment.

Many turn to mints or mouthwash to get rid of the odor. But mints and many mouth rinses only cover up the smell. They do not fix the problem. They are like many air fresheners that you might use in your home. Spraying them hides the bad odor, but it does not actually get rid of it.

New York University College of Dentistry Dean Andrew Spielman, DMD, Ph.D., shared with WebMD, that at least 50 percent of the adult population has bad breath at one point or another, and "just about everyone has it in the morning."

What causes bad breath?

Bad breath can be caused by many things, such as:

  • Poor dental habits — not brushing or flossing regularly or visiting your dentist regularly
  • Foods with strong smells, such as garlic or onions.
  • Some drinks, including coffee and whiskey.
  • Certain illnesses, from sinus problems and even diabetes.
  • Dry mouth, as saliva helps clean the mouth and wash away things that cause odor.
  • Using tobacco products.

Ways to treat bad breath

Brushing and flossing regularly, avoiding foods with strong odors, and quitting smoking can prevent bad breath. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. It also recommends flossing at least once a day. This cannot only keep your mouth and teeth healthy; it can also prevent or fix bad breath.

Brushing after meals can also help reduce or eliminate bad breath.

Here are some other tips from WebMD for treating bad breath:

  • Brush your tongue gently to get rid of odor-causing particles (food items, bacteria, etc.).
  • Drink more water to help wash away odor-causing bacteria and food.
  • If you are on a low-carb diet, eat a slice of bread.

Other sources recommend chewing sugar-free gum or eating mints. While mints can mask breath odor, for people whose bad breath is caused by dry mouth, gum and mints also can help increase saliva. That saliva can then help wash away bacteria and particles that cause bad breath.

What if nothing is working?

If all of the tips and tricks above don't work, you may have an illness. The ADA lists things like sinus issues, stomach problems, liver conditions — and even diabetes — as ailments that can cause bad breath. So if your dentist tells you that your mouth is healthy, you may need a trip to your family doctor to find out the real cause.

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