Why in the world does your breath smell so bad? There could be a number of causes, and most of them are easily addressed.

_ You have food particles trapped in your mouth—the most common explanation. That small piece of steak lodged between your incisors is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Brush, floss, and gargle after every meal to keep your teeth crumb-free.

_ Bacteria have set up shop on the tiny hairs on your tongue. People often overlook this important part of brushing, and it’s such a simple step. When you’ve completed cleaning the fronts and backs of your teeth, run your toothbrush over your tongue for an all-over minty fresh taste.

_ Your mouth is too dry to clean itself. Think of saliva as the mouth’s Windex. Without a sufficient amount, halitosis will eventually take over. Alcohol, caffeine, or dehydration might be causing your dry mouth, or it could be the side effect of a medication. If your mouth’s less than moist, increase your water intake, and chew on sugarless gum to increase the saliva flow. Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol, as these can exacerbate the problem.

_ Your low-carb diet is to blame. When your body doesn’t have carbohydrates to burn, it stockpiles fat—a process called ketosis. As a result, your body uses more water than usual, which decreases the saliva in your mouth. See above. A simple solution is to consider Jenny Craig, instead, and make yourself a sandwich.

_ You have a medical condition that promotes the growth of oral bacteria. You could have a dental condition, like gum disease, mouth ulcers, or tooth decay, or a medical condition, like a respiratory infection, stomach disorder, or hormonal problem. If you experience any other symptoms, don’t ignore them! Bad breath may be the least of your problems.

_ You’ve been under tremendous stress. Stress often leads to digestive problems; it can also interrupt your usual oral hygiene routine as you deal with the nervous energy. The solution here is likely indirect. Practice deep breathing. Take a walk with your dog. Addressing the underlying problem should help ease the side effects.

_ You’re not really using that nicotine patch you bought. Tar, nicotine, and the like can offset even your best breath-freshening efforts. When you smoke, you decrease the moisture in your mouth, which we’ve previously established is a problem. As long as you have the habit, you’re likely to experience the effects.

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