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Bacteria 101: What Causes Bad Breath?

Bacteria 101: What Causes Bad Breath? 
  We’ve all been there. Searching for a piece of gum in our pockets or a little tin of breath mints at the bottom of our purses. No one likes bad breath, but it’s part of life. The good news, bad breath is usually fixable. If you’ve ever wondered what causes that nasty feeling—morning breath, mask mouth, bad breath—whatever you want to call it, we’ve got a few answers for you and our best tips for keeping it at bay.
  Most of the time, bad breath (also called halitosis when it’s chronic) is caused by bacteria living inside your mouth. Bacteria love to hang out on the uneven surface of your tongue. All the ridges and crevices of the tongue provide the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. Bad bacteria love the residue left behind from the drinks and food you eat.  Decomposing food particles in your mouth can also contribute to the stink. 
  Not all bad breath is equal. Other conditions can affect the freshness of your breath. If you’re sick, you may have higher numbers of bacteria present in your mouth, which can create a worse-than-usual bad breath situation. If your tooth becomes infected, the bacteria driving the infection can create a similar acidic taste and smell.  Some throat and sinus conditions can also affect your breath. For instance, tonsil stones are notorious for creating an unpleasant odor. 
  Often, a dry mouth is a culprit for bad breath. Saliva is essential to keeping your mouth feeling healthy and fresh. It washes away the bacteria and keeps teeth cleaner. When your saliva production is down, your chances of bad breath are usually higher. Everyone experiences dry mouth at night when saliva production is down. That’s why morning breath is usually worse than other times of the day. Wearing a mask or breathing through your mouth can create a similar dry mouth effect. Some medications and medical conditions can also contribute to dry mouth.    So how can you fix it?  
  Dental hygiene, including routine dental visits, is key to preventing bad breath. Regular brushing and flossing will help to reduce bad bacteria and prevent food build-up from collecting in between your teeth and at your gum line. As part of your brushing routine, be sure to brush your tongue, too. Better yet, use a tongue scraper from time to time to loosen any bad bacteria and keep your tongue fresh and clean.
  You can also reduce the likelihood of bad breath by swishing your mouth with water after your meals or snacks. Like saliva, water helps to rinse away leftover food. Remember that sugary drinks or other non-water liquids won’t have the same effect as plain old water. 
  While gum and mints may provide a temporary fix, brushing and flossing should be your first line of defense. If you do opt for a breath mint or piece of gum, be sure it’s sugar-free. No matter how minty, a sugary piece of gum or mint can actually worsen your bad breath by feeding the bacteria causing the smell. 
  If you take a medication that dries out your mouth, be sure to talk to your dentist. The sooner your dentist knows, the better. Not only does saliva keep your breath fresh, but it also is essential for protecting your teeth and preventing cavities. For patients with dry mouth, your dentist might recommend a special mouthwash to restore a healthy balance. 
If you notice bad breath that doesn’t resolve after your thorough brushing and flossing routine, you should contact your dentist or doctor. Your symptoms may be a result of a more serious issue than your everyday bad breath. Ask your dentist if you have any questions about your specific symptoms.
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