It happens to the best of us: Your day is going as planned when a foul mouth odor creeps up on you -- and on everyone within breathing distance. Well, bad breath doesn’t have to embarrass you. We got Dr. Matthew Messina, an Ohio-based dentist and the American Dental Association’s consumer advisor spokesman, to give some easy fixes for all your biggest bad breath fears.
1. You have garlic breath but can’t brush your teeth right now.
Bad Breath Fix: Go to the bathroom and swish and spit (or swish and swallow) some water as vigorously as possible. “The goal is to remove as much debris as possible from the mouth and the tongue,” says Messina. “You should almost feel like you’re chewing the water in your mouth.” If you have a napkin handy, you can also wipe the top of your tongue and rub it vigorously for a few seconds, trying to get as much of the coating off as possible.
2. Even after brushing your teeth, you can still smell the onions from last night’s dinner.
Bad Breath Fix: Like in the garlic situation, the bacteria in the onions are trapped in all of the little crevices in your tongue. Try brushing again, focusing on the surface of your tongue this time. Messina suggests holding the tip of your tongue with one hand and brushing the top, as well as both sides. “Holding your tongue with your nondominant hand stabilizes it and can help minimize your gag reflex,” says Messina.
3. Five minutes before a big meeting, you get a whiff of your coffee breath.
Bad Breath Fix: Mouthwash can be a great temporary solution if you don’t have access to a toothbrush. Vigorously rinsing with it will help dislodge the bacteria and plaque that create the bad smell. If you regularly drink coffee, consider storing a toothbrush at work to avoid future embarrassment.
4. Ever since you started dieting, your breath simply stinks.
Bad Breath Fix: Certain diets (like a low-carb one, for example) change the way your body metabolizes sugars, resulting in bad breath. Other health issues can have similar effects. (Diabetes is another known cause of odd mouth odors.) Unfortunately, no amount of brushing or flossing will help in this type of situation. Messina suggests consulting your dentist for a solution.
5. You just met someone interesting at a party and want to check if you have bad breath.
Bad Breath Fix: No, breathing into a cupped hand won’t work. “There’s really no significant way that you can check your own breath,” says Messina. “If you’re that curious, ask a friend.” Otherwise, your best bet is to brush or pop a sugar-free mint just in case. (That old wives’ tale about whiskey killing bacteria in your mouth isn’t true.)
6. Despite brushing, flossing and using mouthwash, you still have terrible breath.
Bad Breath Fix: “There are certain situations where people’s mouths will get colonized by a particularly nasty group of bacteria,” says Messina. In this situation, you may want to try using an antibacterial rinse. (It will be in the mouthwash aisle but should specifically say “antibacterial” on the label.) If that doesn’t work, visit your dentist; a prescription treatment may be necessary.
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