Bad breath is not only embarrassing; it can indicate a more pervasive problem. How to fight it:
- Brush your tongue. Go way, way back. That hard-to-reach spot is a refuge for smelly bacteria. If using your toothbrush makes you gag, try a tongue scraper (pictured). Its thin profile may not trigger the reflex.
- Wet your whistle. Saliva helps remove food particles that feed bacteria. Dry mouth associated with aging or medications (including asthma meds for kids) can make for stinky breath—and more cavities. An option: saliva substitute.
- Combat postnasal drip. Excess mucus can bathe the back of the tongue, keeping bacteria there happy—so dilute it with saline nasal spray. Using a humidifier in the dry winter months may help, too.
- Seek a doc. If bad breath persists despite your efforts at good oral hygiene, it could be a sign of gum disease, gastrointestinal or kidney disease, diabetes, or other systemic illness.