Banish Bad Breath

Suppose you conduct a “breath test” as you head to an important encounter, and you flunk. Don’t worry — the following fast fixes can help tame your wild-and-woolly breath. If odor-causing bacteria seem to be fond of your gums, tongue, and teeth, you’ll want to adopt some daily habits to inhibit these inhabitants. That’s when special rinses, attention to toothpaste, and faithful brushing and flossing can begin making bad breath good.

Take Emergency Measures

  • Dry mouth is a haven for the bacteria that cause bad breath. So find a tap, and swish the water around in your mouth. Water will temporarily dislodge bacteria and make your breath a bit more palatable.
  • At the end of your power lunch or romantic dinner, munch the sprig of parsley that’s left on your plate. Parsley is rich in chlorophyll, a known breath deodorizer with germ-fighting qualities.
  • If you can get your hands on an orange, peel and eat it. The citric acid it contains will stimulate your salivary glands and encourage the flow of breath-freshening saliva.
  • If there are no oranges in sight, eat whatever is available, except known breath-foulers like garlic, onions, or a stinky cheese. Eating encourages the flow of saliva, which helps remove the unpleasant, odor-causing material on the back of your tongue.
  • Vigorously scrape your tongue over your teeth. Your tongue can become coated with bacteria that ferment proteins, producing gases that smell bad. Scraping your tongue can dislodge these bacteria so you can rinse them away.
  • If you have a metal or plastic spoon, use it as a tongue scraper. To scrape safely, place the spoon on the back of your tongue and drag it forward. Repeat four or five times. Scrape the sides of the tongue as well, with the same back-to-front motion. Don’t push the spoon too far back, however; you may activate your gag reflex.

Raid the Spice Shelf

  • Cloves are rich in eugenol, a potent antibacterial. Simply pop one into your mouth and dent it with your teeth. The pungent aromatic oil may burn slightly, so keep that spicy nub moving. Continue to bite until the essence permeates your mouth, then spit it out. Don’t use clove oil or powdered cloves; they’re too strong and can cause burns.
  • Chew on fennel, dill, cardamom, or anise seeds. Anise, which tastes like black licorice, can kill the bacteria that grow on the tongue. The others can help mask the odor of halitosis.
  • Suck on a stick of cinnamon. Like cloves, cinnamon is effective as an antiseptic.

Choose Your Fresheners

    The most obvious brand-name products advertised as breath-fresheners are rarely, if ever, effective in the long run. But with a chlorine dioxide rinse, you can dismantle the sulfur compounds that are responsible for breath odor. These products are available both at your local drugstore and over the Internet. One brand, TheraBreath, is available at pharmacies. Another, ProFresh, can be purchased at

  • Use a toothpaste that contains tea tree oil, a natural disinfectant. If you can’t find it in the pharmacy, look for it in health food stores.

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