Thankfully, it’s the 21st century and there are so many expert-approved ways you can make sure your breath on point. For the most part, they’re all pretty low-maintenance, but you may have to scale back your two to three cups of coffee a day and your **dumps garlic powder all over everything** habit.
Below, we asked dentists to share their expert tips on what you can do to prevent bad breath from creeping up again and how to help your breath stat if you want a fix, like, right now.
1. REDUCE OR ELIMINATE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION.
It’s tragic, I know. But according to Dr. Kami Hoss, DDS, alcohol can really damage your oral microbiome. Not sure what that big word is? (Don’t worry, I didn’t either at first). So, it’s microorganisms that are found in the human oral cavity that are really essential to our health. It also plays a big part in maintaining a steady and normal oral ecological balance. And on top of that, it can cause your mouth to get really dry which could lead to bad breath. If you notice that you’re drinking a lot and you’re starting to develop an odor in your mouth in conjunction, maybe the solution is cutting down on the booze!
2. TRY AND AVOID EATING CERTAIN FOODS AND DRINKS.
Unfortunately, onions, garlic, and coffee are big causes to bad breath. And Dr. Hoss suggests keeping away from them if you’re mindful about having your breath smell good. I know those three food/drink items are low-key essentials to life for many of us, but straying from them could be for the best!!
3. CLEAN YOUR TONGUE.
According to dentist Michelle Chan, DDS, one main source of bad breath is a type of oxygen-hating bacteria in your mouth called anaerobic bacteria. Since they don’t like fresh air, they nestle deeper into your mouth’s surfaces, causing inflammation and bleeding of the gums, which, in turn, creates a stinky, sulphuric byproduct. Sexy, right? Dr. Chan suggests using a tongue scraper to remove the bacteria burrowed in the fuzzy filaments of your tongue, or in a pinch, try using a clean spoon instead.
4. USE AN OXYGENATED MOUTHWASH.
Since anaerobic bacteria hate oxygen, try gargling with an oxygenated mouthwash to kill them fast, even in hard-to-reach places like your tonsils. Yep, anaerobic bacteria tend to accumulate in the contours of your tonsils and create super-pungent tonsil stones (a buildup of bacteria and debris in your tonsils). Yum! Dr. Chan also suggests gargling in the back of your throat with salt water to dislodge the stones or seeing your ENT doctor to remove them.
5. STAY HYDRATED.
Beauty editors like to respond to everything with “drink more water,” and I’m sorry in advance, but the same applies here. Dehydration reduces your saliva production, which is a problem because your spit has antibacterial and antifungal properties that keep your mouth healthy and your breath smelling good. And on a basic level, your saliva also helps break down your food, wash it away, and lubricate your teeth to prevent food getting stuck. “If the food’s decomposing in your mouth because it wasn’t broken down or washed out, bacteria can flourish,” Dr. Chan says. “The more food you leave behind, the more feasting for the bacteria.” Spit is good. Stay hydrated.
6. RINSE WITH ALCOHOL-FREE MOUTHWASH.
While we’re on the topic of dehydration, go ahead and toss all your alcohol-based rinses because ironically enough, your mouthwash could be your problem. Alcohol dries out your mouth, which leads to more bacteria growth, says dentist Debra Glassman, DDS. If you don’t want to run to the store, you can create your own by mixing a tablespoon of baking soda with a cup of warm water and a few drops of peppermint essential oil. “Baking soda is a natural antibacterial, and the peppermint oil helps freshen your breath in a pinch if you run out of mouthwash,” Dr. Glassman says.
7. SNACK ON APPLES OR ANY OTHER CRUNCHY, HEALTHY FOODS.
Better make a quick stop at Whole Foods (that’s romantic, right?). The hard texture of apples, celery, carrots, etc., can remove food caught between your teeth and rub away the bacteria that’s clinging to them. Think of crunchy health foods as nature’s toothbrushes.
8. CHEW SUGARLESS GUM CONTAINING XYLITOL.
Gum contributes to better breath for a few reasons: First, the act of chewing stimulates the flow of saliva, which, remember, helps flush away bacteria. Second, it helps pick up food that’s been left behind. And third, xylitol, a sweetener, is also an antibacterial. Try SuperSmile Whitening Gum With Xylitol, or if you’re not a gum fan, try Spry Xylitol Mints.
9. EAT PROBIOTIC FOODS.
Dr. Glassman says good breath relies on a healthy gut. Eating probiotic fermented foods like kimchi, yogurt, and kefir increases the good bacteria in your gut (the large and small intestines and the stomach). And when good bacteria thrive, there’s less room for the bad bac, which can give off a not-so-pleasant smell that travels up the digestive tract and into your mouth.
10. CHEW ON FRESH MINT LEAVES OR PARSLEY.
You laugh, but it works! If you’re already on your date, order a drink with mint leaves or casually ask your server for a side of parsley (you just, um, really love parsley, okay?). The mint will help freshen your breath, and the parsley contains chlorophyll, which Dr. Jennifer Jablow, DDS, says fights against the aforementioned sulfur compounds.
11. BRUSH AND FLOSS EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Sure, flossing is an extra step, but it’s an essential one. Brushing your teeth helps nix the plaque and bacteria on the front, back, and the chewing surface, but flossing dislodges anything your toothbrush can’t get to between the teeth. If you don’t floss, Dr. Chan says here’s what will happen:
The minerals in saliva (like calcium and phosphates) can cause the plaque to harden between the teeth (aka tartar). Tartar is full of bacteria. The bacteria colonies can multiply and burrow deeper into your gum. Over time, the tissue around the bone gets irritated, causing inflammation. Your gums start to break down, resulting in bleeding gums when you brush your teeth. If it progresses, the space between the gums and teeth grows. Welcome to gum disease.
Basically, anaerobic bacteria are the culprit behind gum disease and bad breath. So brush and floss, or bad breath will be the least of your concerns.
12. STEER CLEAR OF CIGARETTES.
Aside from the obvious fact that cigarettes smell bad, Dr. Chan says smoking inhibits your immune system, which can interfere with your bod’s ability to fight off bad bacteria. That can lead to a quicker progression of gum disease and bad breath.
13. DON’T SKIP YOUR DENTIST APPOINTMENTS.
See your dentist at least twice a year (depending on your oral condition) for cleanings, and while you’re there, don’t hesitate to bring up your concerns if you’ve tried everything and your bad breath still isn’t going away. It could be the result of multiple factors, so don’t WebMD yourself into a dark hole. Just go ahead and make yourself an appointment.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com