Though it is absolutely critical that you brush your teeth at least twice a day, there is no guarantee that the toothpaste brands you choose will clear up your halitosis. In fact, plenty of research suggests that many common toothpastes and toothpastes can keep your teeth clean while doing virtually nothing for your bad breath.
Generally speaking, brushing your teeth improves your oral odor no matter what, up to a point. This is one of the many reasons that the American Dental Association recommends brushing regularly and seeing the dentists every six months or so.
By doing so, you can prevent the development tartar and plaque buildup, cavities, gingivitis and even periodontal disease, which is a serious infection of the bone bed in which your teeth are rooted. Avoiding these conditions means that your halitosis will be milder than it might otherwise be.
Still, most of the widely available toothpaste brands in the U.S. do not actively neutralize bad breath. This means that while you may be preventing dental decay and its attendant smells, you are probably not actively eliminating halitosis by using a common paste or gel.
This is where a specialty breath freshening toothpaste can make all the difference. Such a product typically uses carefully chosen, all-natural compounds that bind to and neutralize volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which are the molecules responsible for the odor of halitosis.
As evidence of this quality's presence in certain specialty toothpastes, consider a study published in the journal Oral Diseases, which examined the odor-fighting capability of a number of toothpaste brands.
The authors noted that brands that contained essential oils performed reasonably well, and that those containing zinc did even better. Among the best results were those derived from toothpaste brands that contained chlorhexidine, a VSC-binding compound that safely and quickly eliminates odor molecules from the mouth.
The brand of paste, rather than the style of brushing, appears to make all the difference. The proof in the pudding is a 2002 report in the International Dental Journal, which announced that tongue brushing did not reduce halitosis levels as effectively as using a product containing chlorhexidine.
As an aside, the authors noted that sugarless gum and mint oil not only did nothing to reduce oral odor, but also actually increased participants' measured levels of methyl mercaptan, a potent VSC that gives rotten cabbage its distinctive scent.