Do this before your next one-on-one.
Bad breath is pretty much the worst, whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of it. But you can make certain moves that clear the air.
As everyone who’s ever woken up in the morning knows, the plaque and bacteria that build up on teeth (especially at night) cause stinky breath. It’s not just little food particles that stick in between teeth for a short time until they’re brushed or flossed out that are a problem. When you don’t floss or brush well and they stay in there, they can decay, contributing to bad breath and maybe even gum disease, which means more bad breath.
One of the primary causes of bad breath is your tongue. A 2018
study in the Journal of Applied Oral Science found that people who brushed their tongues in an “X” technique had fewer bacteria and felt their breath was fresher than people who just brushed their tongues however they felt like it. The X technique is just like you’d expect – back right to front left, back left to front right, and straight down the center. The best results were in people who did that pattern six times.
That’s all well and good, but maybe a bit more complicated than it needs to be. “The important thing is to be thorough no matter what technique is used,” says Andrew Sullivan, D.D.S., chair of the periodontics department at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine. Just be sure you get the area toward the back of the tongue, he says, “where many bacteria associated with halitosis congregate.”
A dry mouth lets dry cells build up on your tongue, gums, and cheeks. Without enough moisture (read: saliva) to wash them away, they provide food for bacteria, which take up residence and multiply. This produces molecules related to sulfur, which basically stink. Swish with (or drink) water when you feel your mouth is getting dry. This can also help tame the dreaded keto breath.
“Your mouthwash can actually do more damage than good if you’re using the wrong mouthwash,” New York City-based Jonathan Levine, D.D.S., has told Men’s Health. Mouthwashes that contain alcohol can dry out your mouth, so they might work for a moment, but won’t solve the problem. As per above, a dry mouth can drive bad breath, not resolve it.
Onions, shallots, garlic. So good going down, so unpleasant when you get called into a meeting afterward. All you’re really going to be able to do at this point is to mask bad breath from food with gum or mints. But that’s better than doing nothing.
If all of this still leaves you with bad breath, check for deeper causes for it. Certain medications and certain problems, like sinus issues, can throw your breath smell off. If you’re plagued by constant bad breath and your teeth and gums are healthy, see a doc to figure out what else is going on.
Marty Munson, currently the health director of Men’s Health, has been a health editor at properties including Marie Claire, Prevention, Shape and RealAge. She’s also certified as a swim and triathlon coach.
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