09
February
2011
|
11:23 PM
America/New_York

Sweet Breath and Healthy Mouths for Valentine’s Day!

A Valentine’s Day kiss is good for your health! A nice smooch will stimulate saliva production. That helps prevent tooth decay. As you get ready to pucker up, take these steps to be sure your breath is sweet.

Bad breath, or halitosis, can be embarrassing. The best way to prevent bad breath is to eliminate the potential causes. Bacteria lingering in your mouth from food or infections can create odors (and lead to decay). Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day is a good start. Also clean your tongue –it can retain bacteria. A gentle and thorough cleaning with a tongue scraper or toothbrush can remove lingering food particles.

Foods play a role in lingering bad breath. Most people know they should avoid foods with strong smelling ingredients, like garlic or onion. Did you know that oils from some cheeses and soft drinks are absorbed into your lungs and the smell is given off in your breath for a while! Foods such as apples or oranges contain helpful enzymes that naturally remove bacteria. Crunchy foods like carrots or celery help stimulate the flow of saliva which also helps get rid of odor causing bacteria. Chewing on parsley or mint leaves can also help freshen your breath.

Sometimes the cause of halitosis is a dry mouth and not food. Saliva is a natural cleaner for the mouth, helping to remove food and other particles that may cause halitosis. Some people don’t produce enough saliva to keep their mouth wet.

A side-effect of some medications, such as antihistamines, tranquilizers, and various blood pressure medicines, may be a decrease in the flow of saliva (in children and adults). Diseases like Sjögren's Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease can also cause dry mouth. Cancer patients may find salivary glands are impaired after exposure to radiation treatment. Chemotherapy drugs can make saliva thicker, leaving the mouth feeling sticky and dry. If any of these symptoms sounds familiar to you, talk to your dentist and physician. They may be able to suggest alternative medications or prescribe a medicine that helps your salivary glands work better.

People experiencing dry mouth can stimulate the flow of saliva with sugarless gum or candy. It is also a good idea to drink six to eight glasses of water a day. Try to avoid alcohol and tobacco; both are “drying agents” which remove saliva from your mouth. Ultimately that can lead to an increase in bad breath and a higher tendency to tooth decay.

Adding a mouthwash to your daily care routine can help sweeten your breath. Select alcohol-free products -- they are less drying. And, pick a mouthwash with fluoride; it can help prevent cavities by strengthening your teeth.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Brush, floss, and rinse before you pucker up!