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Teen Health

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Bad Breath

How Can I Tell if I Have Bad Breath?

Believe it or not, the most common method doesn't work to diagnose your own bad breath. Many teens think that they can blow into their hands and smell their breath. That simply doesn't work.

Instead, do this. Lick the back of your hand, let the saliva dry, then take a whiff. What you smell there is your true breath.

Another good way? If you have a trusted friend, ask them to smell your breath. Parents can also tell you if you ask.

How Do I Control My Bad Breath?

Here are some tips for controlling bad breath.

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush and floss after every meal, or at least twice a day. Brush for two minutes each time. Proper brushing also involves brushing your tongue, cheeks, and the roof of your mouth to remove bacteria and food particles. Flossing removes bacteria, plaque, and food particles that may be trapped between teeth. Many dentists and dental hygienists also recommend cleaning your tongue with a tongue scraper, a plastic tool that scrapes away bacteria that builds up on the tongue. Mouthwashes and rinses can also temporarily relieve bad breath.
  • Remember your retainer. If you wear a retainer or have some kind of removable appliance, clean it thoroughly each time you brush. If you have braces, take extra time and care to clean all the nooks and crannies. Your orthodontist is a good source of information about keeping your braces clean.
  • Chew sugar-free gum. Chewing sugar-free gum helps stimulate saliva. This helps cleanse the teeth and gums and prevents dry mouth.
  • Stop using tobacco. Get help and kick the habit.
  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash. Gargling once or twice a day is good for teeth and gums and kills bad-breath bacteria in your mouth.


Where Does My Dentist Fit in?

While there is no dental specialty that deals just with bad breath, your family dentist should be able to address most of your concerns about oral hygiene.

If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy, he or she may refer you to a general physician or a specialist to determine the cause of your bad breath. Your doctor can tell you if you are taking medications that can cause dry mouth, or if you have other medical conditions that may make you more likely to have dry mouth and bad breath.

Seeing your dentist regularly (at least every six months) and following his or her advice will reduce or eliminate any bad breath problems you may have. Then you won't have to worry about those potential "close encounters."

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on February 28, 2014
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