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Bad Breath


What do I need to know about bad breath?

Bad breath, or halitosis, can happen from time to time or be a long-term problem. The most common cause is the breakdown of food that sticks between your teeth, on your tongue, or around your gums. Without proper dental care, bad breath can develop. Bad breath may also be caused by any of the following:

  • A dry mouth
  • Tooth decay, plaque buildup, gum disease, or mouth sores
  • Foods, such as red meat, onions, garlic, and cheese
  • Drinks, such as orange juice, coffee, and soda
  • Tobacco and alcohol
  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney or liver disease, or sinus infections

How is bad breath diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your mouth and nose. He will smell your breath as you breathe through your nose and then your mouth. You may need tests if an underlying medical condition is causing your bad breath.

How is bad breath treated?

The best treatment for bad breath is good oral care:

  • Brush your teeth at least 2 times a day. You may need to brush after each meal. Use a fluoride toothpaste. Brush your tongue and gums. Brush removable dentures or retainers. Soak them overnight in a disinfectant solution.
  • Floss your teeth at least 1 time each day. This helps remove food from between your teeth.
  • Swish mouthwash around in your mouth for 30 seconds and spit it out. Ask your healthcare provider if you need prescription mouthwash.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables each day. Carrots, celery, and other vegetables can help prevent plaque buildup on your teeth. Avoid food and drinks that cause bad breath. Some examples include red meat, garlic, onions, fish, eggs, orange juice, and soda.
  • Do not smoke or drink alcohol. Tobacco and alcohol cause halitosis. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information if you need help quitting.
  • Treat your dry mouth. Drink more water, suck on sugar-free mints, or chew sugar-free gum. This will help you produce more saliva. Saliva helps decrease bad breath.
  • Go the dentist at least 2 times a year for an exam and teeth cleaning. Your dentist can help prevent or treat bad breath or other problems with your teeth or mouth.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your bad breath does not go away or gets worse.
  • You have bad breath and any of the following:
    • Loose teeth
    • Painful, swollen gums that bleed easily
    • Fever or sore throat
    • Coughing up mucus
    • Green or yellow drainage from your nose
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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