Points to Ponder

Eating more fruits and vegetables may decrease bad breath. Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water, which can help keep your mouth moist. Saliva is nature's way of keeping your breath fresh.

After being digested, a smelly substance in garlic is absorbed into your bloodstream and then transferred to your lungs, where it is expelled as a gas -- making your breath smell! Brushing your teeth and rinsing with mouthwash only temporarily hide the odor.

There’s growing evidence that the polyphenols in green tea can protect drinkers against cavities and bad breath.

The American Dental Association recommends using 18 inches of floss, wound around one of your middle fingers, with the rest wound around the middle finger of your other hand, to best floss your teeth.

Children are not more likely to have bad breath if their mothers had bad breath, according to a study in the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry journal. On the other hand, there was a clear connection between frequent tooth-brushing and reduced breath levels of smelly gases called volatile sulfur compounds.

Bad breath can be a symptom of a medical condition, including a respiratory infection, diabetes, or liver or kidney disease. If your dentist looks at your mouth and your bad breath isn’t coming from a problem with your teeth or gums, you might have to see your doctor about one of these or some other medical condition.

Eating red meat can worsen your breath; eating less meat may improve your breath. The decay of the leftover bits of proteins in meats and cheese can create odors in your breath.

Normally, saliva washes particles of food out of your mouth, so people with dry mouth may have bad breath because they still have food particles stuck in there. The medical name for dry mouth is xerostomia.

About 400 prescription drugs and some over-the-counter meds cause dry mouth. The lower amount of saliva contributes to an overgrowth of bacteria, which can produce an unpleasant breath smell.

Bad breath, a sore throat, trouble swallowing, and fever are all symptoms of tonsillitis, an infection of the tonsils (the oval-shaped nubs of pink tissue on each side of the back of your throat).

Debris caught in your tonsils also can be a factor in bad breath. So can those smelly gray or yellowish deposits, called tonsilloliths or tonsil stones. Gargling may help ease the problem.

Rinsing after flossing helps remove the debris loosened by the floss. Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash to help kill bacteria that cause bad breath.

Even though they're not "real teeth," they can harbor bacteria and food particles, which cause bad breath. If you can remove your dentures, brush them and soak in a disinfecting solution overnight.

Mild gum disease, or gingivitis, can give you red, irritated gums and smelly breath. It's easy to fix this early condition with a cleaning at your dentist and better daily care at home.

If the infection gets worse, gums can pull away from your teeth. In the most advanced stage, the bone that anchors your teeth breaks down.

Maybe pastrami is your problem, or that expensive cheese you like. In any case, a log of what you're eating can help your dentist figure out what’s going on.