Received wisdom is a funny thing. Sometimes it can resemble good advice even though it's, for lack of a better term, total baloney. Consider the old adage to feed a cold and starve a fever. It's fiendishly easy to remember, thanks to its symmetry and cadence. It also happens to be dead wrong. Sadly, the same situation is true of many bad breath treatments. Some work wonders, while others can be totally dispensed with.
But how are you supposed to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff, olfactorily speaking? After all, some of the worst, least effective products still regularly get recommended by dentists and oral health experts across the nation. How can you spot an effective treatment for halitosis?
By using the following two lists, that's how!
The first enumerates the treatments that are little better than snake oil. The second list follows up with a rundown of bad breath treatments that actually work.
What not to use
Green tea: In very specific circumstances, green tea could reduce oral odor, but those instances rarely occur in real life. A recent FOX News report - one that our own Dr. Katz contributed to (more on that below) - recommended drinking green tea for its odor-neutralizing polyphenols. However, the news source also wisely noted that a speck of sugar or milk in the tea undoes the entire effect.
Sweetened gum: If it's got sugar in it, it's worthless. The sugars in gum instantly give microbes the food they need to multiply in your mouth. However, be careful around sugar-free gums, too. The specialty variety may neutralize odors, while other brands do little more than mask bad breath.
Alcohol-based mouthwash: Here's one that's a big no-no. Oral health experts often recommend mouthwash without stopping to say, "Wait! Don't use the kind that's brimming with alcohol." Because it evaporates fast, alcohol dries out the palate, and a dry mouth is a stinky mouth. FOX News noted that alcohol-free versions can be better. Dr. Katz told the news source that gargling the no-alcohol kind is a must, in order to hit the bacteria that lurk in your throat.
Seeing a dentist more than twice a year: This one's controversial. Now, don't get us wrong. Seeing a dentist twice a year is essential for keeping your teeth clean and healthy. But three or more dentists' visits in a 12-month period won't necessarily keep your breath fresher, assuming you take good care of your teeth.
What to use
Water: Here's a surprising secret - one of the best ways to minimize bad breath is simply to drink water. That's it. As Dr. Katz explained to FOX News, the moisture helps you produce more saliva, which in turn cleanses away odor-causing microbes. Note: Sweetened or flavored waters won't do the trick. Stick to bottled or tap water.
Flossing: Dentist Philip Mendelovitz recently told Yahoo! Health that, along with brushing before bed, flossing daily is key to preventing plaque buildup and bad breath.
Alcohol-free mouthwash: We've already covered this one, by why not repeat it for emphasis. If your mouthwash contains alcohol, then consider pitching it in the rubbish bin.
Tongue scrapers: As bad breath treatments go, this one's a WMD - weapon of microbial destruction. Your tongue's surface contains millions of valleys and pits that make perfect little homes for bacteria. By scraping the back of your tongue every day, you pull away literally billions of microscopic miasma machines.
Oxygenating products: Whether they're specialty gums, lozenges, toothpastes, rinses or tooth bleaching kits, the oxygenating kind makes your oral environment inhospitable to bacteria.