Whether it's a Valentine's Day date or a lunch with your boss, no one wants to have bad breath — ever. But how do we fight it? We know we're supposed to brush and floss, but if that's not enough, what's next?
Ultimately, it's seldom any one thing; it's a total picture of what's going on with your oral health. "It is not a question of what to eat, but rather what not to eat, having good oral hygiene, and controlling your digestive process as needed. If you already have bad breath, eating something minty may be just a cover-up at best, but not addressing the underlying causes," Dr. Jon Marashi, DDS, tells POPSUGAR.
Here are eight tips to fix the root of your bad breath once and for all.
Don't Use Alcohol-Based Mouthwash
"I think the first thing people think about when they have bad breath is running to the Listerine bottle!" says SmileCycle cofounder and dentist Suhail Mohiuddin. But what most people don't realize is that alcohol-based mouthwashes just temporarily mask bad breath and can actually make it worse. Alcohol naturally dries out your mouth, which in turn leads to more odor.
Eat More of These Foods
Are there foods that help with bad breath? "The simple answer is yes, but the real question is, are these foods curing your bad breath or just covering it up?" says Dr. William Graves, DMD. Parsley is probably the most common food used to mask bad breath. The saving grace in parsley, like in cinnamon and spearmint, is its oils. "These oils are powerful enough to overpower even the most potent, foul-smelling breath," says Dr. Graves.
"However, most sane people don't carry parsley in their purse or pocket, so a more common way to cure this ailment is to chew gum," Dr. Graves continues. "Though not a good alternative to brushing your teeth and tongue, sugarless gum is a fast, easy, convenient way to give some relief to your friends and coworkers. Sugarless gum not only helps to mask the pungent smell of your breath, it also stimulates your salivary glands to produce more saliva, which will help fight the bacteria."
Brush and Floss Twice Daily
"This staple routine helps remove food particles and reduce gum inflammation, which in turn freshens breath," says Dr. Mohiuddin. So don't skip out on this daily habit!
Clean Your Tongue
Have you ever noticed a white film on your tongue? "That film is the accumulation of bacteria that is just hanging out on your tongue," says Dr. Mohiuddin. Your neighborhood drugstore has a variety of tongue scrapers in varying sizes and shapes. Most work perfectly fine; just remember to replace it often and clean it regularly.
Quit Smoking and Using Tobacco Products
"This is a no-brainer, but smoking can dry out your mouth and cause an unpleasant smell that lingers even after you brush your teeth," says Dr. Mohiuddin.
Drink Less Coffee
Sipping on your morning joe can dehydrate you. "Try limiting your intake to one cup or less per day and consciously drink more water," says Dr. Mohiuddin.
See Your Dentist Regularly
"Gum infections or decaying teeth can contribute to bad breath. Don't skip out on your six-month cleanings," says Dr. Mohiuddin. Keeping your teeth really clean is one of the most effective ways to ward off bad breath.
Get Your Acid Reflux in Check
"Uncontrolled GERD [gastroesophageal reflux disease] can lead to some of the worst bad breath. Make an appointment with your physician to talk about treatment options," says Dr. Mohiuddin.