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Teen Health

Bad Breath

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More than 70% of teens say bad breath is an instant turnoff. About 85% say it's the most important thing to avoid when meeting someone for the first time. And while bad breath can be treated and avoided, you often don't even know that you have it!

Bad breath (called halitosis) is a common problem not only for teens, but also for everyone. So what exactly is it, what causes it, and, most important, how can you get rid of it?

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What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath has a variety of causes, including:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Medications and medical conditions
  • Postnasal drip
  • Poor hygiene (yep, you have to brush teeth more frequently)

In most cases, bad breath comes from the gums and tongue. Some bacteria in your mouth may produce compounds that result in an odor.

Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, not only leave lasting odors in your mouth, but are also absorbed into the bloodstream. The odors are then expelled from the lungs. Until these foods are eliminated from the body, mouthwash, chewing gum, and toothpaste can only mask the odors on the breath.

For some people, a dry mouth causes bad breath. Dry mouth can result from taking antihistamines for allergies or a cold, or from antidepressants. It can also result from localized infections, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbances, or liver or kidney ailments.

The postnasal drip that streams down the back of your throat during colds, allergies, or sinus infections can result in bad breath. Sometimes, tiny food nuggets lodge in the crypts of your tonsils or on the tongue and cause a foul odor.

But most bad breath is the result of poor oral hygiene. Basically, that means you don't brush or floss frequently enough. How many times have you heard that from your dentist?

Bacteria that build up on the back of your tongue or in between your teeth are the main culprits. Certain types of bacteria love to breed on the tongue, in the crevices between your teeth, or in untreated cavities.

Finally -- yet most important -- tobacco products cause bad breath. If you smoke tobacco or chew smokeless tobacco, ask you dentist or your primary health care professional for tips on kicking the habit.

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