Whether it is your morning coffee or garlic bread at lunch, one way or another, you might find yourself seeking a quick fix for bad breath more often than not. Your inclination may be to reach for gum, but Cherri L. Kading, assistant professor and clinic coordinator at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry Caruth School of Dental Hygiene, explains that may not always be the best option.

“Gum alone doesn’t cure bad breath, but chewing gum does help,” Kading says. The mechanical act of chewing helps to pull out debris that may be stuck in teeth. It also helps to produce saliva that clears debris and acts as a buffering agent.

Kading suggests chewing gum with Xylitol listed as one of the first three ingredients. Xylitol is a healthy alternative to sugar and the optimal gum ingredient for reducing the pathogenic bacteria that contributes to risk of dental cavities, or tooth decay. While it has a sweet taste, unlike sugar, Xylitol does not convert to acids that cause tooth decay. In fact, this sugar substitute has been found to reduce the levels of decay-causing bacteria in saliva. Many stores, especially natural grocery stores, sell gum and mints that are 100 percent Xylitol.

However, to really get to the root of bad breath, good, old-fashion dental hygiene is key. If you do not clean your teeth often enough, trapped food will begin to rot and quickly lead to bad breath. Brushing after every meal, and flossing regularly are good ways to get rid of leftover food stuck in between teeth. Kading also recommends tongue scrapers as another good way to get rid of odor-causing bacteria.

If you are looking for a better way to alleviate bad breath in a pinch, consider mouthwash as an alternative to chewing gum.

“Mouthwashes that have essential oils, including thymol, methyl salicylate, eucalyptol, and menthol, in combination with alcohol tend to work best. The essential oils and alcohol work together to eliminate bacteria that causes bad breath,” Kading said.

Whether you choose chewing gum with Xylitol, brushing after every meal, gargling mouthwash or even a combination of the three, your mouth will thank you – and so will the people you talk with throughout the day – as all of those techniques will help in varying degrees to alleviate the odor-causing bacteria that stick around in your mouth.

— Madison Matous

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