One of Flossing's Biggest Benefits: Fighting Bad Breath
Need another reason to floss your teeth at least once a day? Flossing daily helps improve bad breath by effectively removing the food particles and bacteria that contribute to it. That makes flossing one of the easiest ways to prevent and banish bad breath.
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is more common than many people realize. You may joke about bad breath, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, but it’s an important oral health issue. Bad breath can be more than an embarrassing social problem—it can be a sign of disease or illness.
Saliva is Your Friend
Less saliva means that your mouth is more susceptible to plaque buildup, which can create an unpleasant smell on your breath. Pay extra attention to any of the following circumstances that can reduce the saliva in your mouth and promote bad breath:
- Drinking alcohol. Alcohol-containing beverages may promote a dry mouth and cause bad breath. So don’t forget to floss after an evening out on the town, no matter how much you’re tempted to hop into bed and forget about it.
- Early morning. Saliva stops flowing while you sleep, so you may be prone to bad breath in the morning. If so, mornings may be the best time for your daily dental flossing.
- Being hungry or thirsty. When you’re dehydrated, there’s not as much saliva in your mouth, so you’re prone to bad breath and increased bacterial buildup. Drink enough fluids and remember to floss. Also, remember that chewing food increases the saliva in your mouth, so if you’re skipping meals or dieting, you may develop bad breath.
If you’re dieting and eating less frequently, a mint floss can not only help bad breath by removing bacteria, it may help you with your diet by providing a fresh taste in your mouth that makes you less tempted to snack. People who are following extremely low carbohydrate diets also sometimes report bad breath, but these reports are anecdotal. If you’re on a low-carb diet, or any restrictive diet, you may be promoting bad breath. If you must restrict your food intake and eat infrequently, drink plenty of water to help maintain the level of saliva in your mouth to help prevent bad breath in addition to following a good oral care routine.
If you experience chronic bad breath that doesn’t seem to improve despite a consistent oral hygiene routine, talk to your dentist and doctor for further evaluation to identify or prevent serious health problems.
Sometimes bad breath can be a sign of a more serious issue. Some serious oral health conditions associated with bad breath include:
- Throat problems such as strep throat.
- Dental cavities or gum disease.
- Throat or oral cancer.
- Tonsils that contain trapped food particles.
- An infected root canal
In addition, bad breath can be a symptom of a variety of serious non-oral health problems including liver disease, diabetes, HIV, digestive system ailments such as reflux and even lung infections or lung disease.
The Importance of Habit
Research supports a link between lack of flossing (among other poor oral hygiene behaviors) and bad breath. In a study of more than 1,000 adults conducted in Kuwait, never using dental floss was significantly associated with reports of bad breath, as was infrequent tooth brushing, being or having been a smoker.
Your oral care routine to help prevent bad breath should include not only daily flossing, but also brushing the teeth, tongue, gums and roof of your mouth twice each day. Using a mouthwash can provide short-term relief for bad breath, but use it as an addition to (not a substitute for) brushing and flossing.