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Shelley Shearer: Bad breath? How to avoid this social embarrassment — and achieve good dental hygiene

A collective moan from dentists around the country occurred when a Super Bowl commercial debuted with a seemingly successful “close talker” whose obnoxious feat is due to using a particular toothpaste.

While brushing is indeed part of the solution to combating bad breath, dentists know that the remedy is more complicated than a mere tooth brushing.

Are people avoiding you? Do your dinner companions steer you away from eating garlic or onions? Do friends continuously offer you mints or gum?

More than 80 million people suffer from Halitosis, the medical term for bad breath. Chronic Halitosis doesn’t seem to go away no matter if you try to mask it with mints, gum or mouthwash. It can last for days, even years.

Dr. Shelly Shearer

Bad breath comes primarily from poor dental hygiene.

It can also surface due to smoking, chewing tobacco, one’s diet or poor-fitting dentures where food particles get stuck and can cause disease to erupt. In severe cases, there could be a medical problem or advanced gum disease that contributes to Halitosis.

Want to avoid bad breath? Here are the best recommendations:

 Brush your teeth twice a day. If you maintain this practice for two or three minutes at a time, you can remove much plaque and food debris lodged around your teeth.

 Floss daily. Yes, flossing is essential to remove food that takes residence between the teeth that regular brushing cannot reach.

 Visit your dentist regularly. Everyone needs cleanings once, and preferably twice a year, to remove tartar and plaque from hard-to-reach areas. A dental exam will reveal if the bad breath stems from poor hygiene or if things have escalated into infection, gum disease or advanced tooth decay.

 Quit smoking. In addition to the risk of lung disease, tobacco odor is difficult to get rid of, especially from the mouth. Think about quitting smoking and chewing tobacco for your physical and dental well-being.

 Drink water. A dry mouth slows down the production of saliva, which protects teeth from bacteria building up. Staying hydrated also pushes away nasty food particles and lingering odors. If you have chronic dry mouth or take medications that cause dry mouth, your dentist can recommend an over-the-counter saliva substitute.

Many experts believe that consuming green tea helps alleviate bacteria in the mouth. They have also added to the list some anti-bacterial spices: cloves, cinnamon sticks, and parsley, to name a few.

Contrary to popular belief, mouthwash is not a miracle elixir that will cure bad breath. It may mask it for a short while like sucking on some breath mints, but it does not dissolve the bacteria that causes the problem. Sure, it’s suitable to pop a mint in your mouth (hopefully sugarless) if you are mingling at a networking event. But it is a temporary fix.

Halting Halitosis is simple.

Embrace good oral hygiene. If you drink plenty of water and brush, floss and visit the dentist regularly, chances are you will maintain a beautiful smile and avoid the plague of social embarrassment.

Dr. Shelley Shearer is a graduate of the University of Louisville Dental School and Founder of Shearer Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Florence, the largest all-female dental practice in Northern Kentucky.

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