The holiday season brings so many wonderful smells: fresh pine, cookies out of the oven, hot apple cider. The last thing you want to smell during this time of year is halitosis, also known as chronic bad breath. No amount of mint or cinnamon will cover up that issue. Constant bad breath could have one of several causes.

Two of the first places we check as dentists are the teeth and gums. Large cavities in teeth allow food to hide in places it normally cannot. Deep gum pockets harbor bacteria that can contribute to bad breath. If either of these is the source of your bad breath, it can usually be treated by a few trips to your dentist. Another place to check is your tongue. Bacteria can easily accumulate between the taste buds on your tongue and create a heavy coating. A good daily brushing of your tongue can help reduce any build up and smell.

Lack of saliva can also contribute to bad breath. Saliva naturally bathes the teeth throughout the day, breaking down and removing leftover food and debris. If you notice dry mouth, drink water throughout the day to help rinse your teeth or check the local grocery store for dry mouth products. Saliva low can also be affected by medications, illnesses, tobacco and alcohol use, and even excessive caffeine.

Your daily at-home routine can improve bad breath. Effective brushing of the teeth and tongue twice a day, as well as daily flossing and the use of a mouth rinse, can help with malodor: Drink plenty of water to help your saliva low. If the smell still lingers, get a dental checkup. Your dentist will look for cavities, gingivitis, and check your tongue and tonsils for debris build up.

If after doing all of these things you still have chronic bad breath, it could be caused by a systemic condition like gastric reflux, diabetes, liver or kidney failure, or even respiratory tract infections. Once your dentist rules out any oral conditions, he or she can refer you to your medical provider for further follow up if needed.

The holidays are a wonderful time to spend with your loved ones, not hiding behind your turtleneck! Chronic bad breath is not something to ignore and most likely can be easily treated.

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