Foods can cause bad breath; garlic (the stinking rose) and onions are classic examples. Reflux of stomach contents can do the same, as can serious diseases of the liver or kidneys. But the usual culprits are oral bacteria.
“Morning breath” is caused by breathing through the mouth during sleep; saliva dries out, allowing bacteria to multiply and produce bad-smelling gases. Any medication or condition that reduces saliva flow can do the same.
Similarly, periodontal diseases often give bacteria an unwelcome edge, and bacteria in the sinuses and tonsils can sometimes pitch in. But in some cases, bacteria that are present in every healthy mouth get the upper hand and cause halitosis.
If you have bad breath, here’s what to do:
1. Keep your saliva flowing. Drink plenty of water, chew gum (sugarless please), and avoid antihistamines and other medications with anticholingeric actions that dry the mouth.
2. See your dentist regularly and get prompt treatment for any problems.
3. Don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
4. Use an antibacterial mouthwash like Listerine.
5. Keep breath mints on hand for a quick, if temporary, cover-up.
6. Relax. Halitosis is a common problem, and it’s usually much less bothersome to other people than to the person with bad breath.