You just did a quick self-test and realized that you have bad breath. It’s OK – a lot of people have this problem. There are whole industries set around it and how to get rid of it. But before you think of a plan of attack, you should ask yourself: What are the causes of bad breath?

Oftentimes bad breath, or halitosis, is relatively benign. It could just mean that you’re not quite as diligent as you should be about brushing your teeth… or doing it for the right length of time. Be sure to brush your tongue, too, since that can also get covered with bacteria that can cause bad breath.

Another reason for bad breath might be from the beverages that you consume. Coffee is one that usually sends people to either brush their teeth or reach for a mint. Other drinks that can cause you to get bad breath from a dry mouth include soda. A well-hydrated mouth doesn’t get dry, so drinking a good amount of water is also a good idea.

Speaking of dry mouth, salty foods like chips and pretzels can cause this. If you like to eat a lot of salty foods – and who doesn’t – always try to have water nearby. There are plenty of foods out there that are capable of rendering one’s breath nearly unbearable. People who have been around someone who likes to eat food with heavy garlic, for example…

There may be underlying causes for your bad breath as well. You may be experiencing the aftereffects of acid reflux, for example. Eating certain foods can trigger that… and then the acid rises and the bad breath comes out. Other causes for bad breath include regularly smoking or using chewing tobacco products, for example.

While there is bacteria that thrives in moisture – and your mouth, with all its saliva, can be a place for that if not brushed properly, there can be another reason for bad breath – dry mouth. Yes, the absence of moisture can create its own bad breath. If cared for properly, your mouth is a wonderful balancing act of wet and dry.

When it comes to ridding yourself of bad breath, you may not have to do anything drastic. There are mouthwashes that can eliminate bad breath. Also, if you suspect certain foods are behind it, just keep a log for a week or so before your next dental visit and your dentist or dental hygienist may be able to pinpoint what it may be.

The best chance you have to keep your breath smelling good is to brush your teeth at least twice a day. Do it thoroughly and also be sure to floss as well. Doing that will get rid of food particles that can wind up lingering and affecting your breath.

As always, if you feel that the bad breath is not going away, go back to your dentist and they can take another look to see what the problem is.

Dr. Robert Trager has been working with patients for many decades and can help pinpoint what may ail your breath.