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Ask Men's Health

Do breath mints really work?


Yes – but only in the short-term, says Dr Leong Hon Chiew from Dr HC Leong Dental Surgeon ( Still, pick your mints carefully, he says, as most are packed with a high sugar content, which actually encourages oral bacteria growth that can cause bad breath. The worst time to take mints: after dinner. “Often, people who take after-dinner mints will not drink water for a while, as they won’t want to lose that ‘fresh’ feeling,” says Dr Leong. “This dries out the mouth and throat, further encouraging bacterial growth.”

But if you must suck on a breath mint, Dr Leong says to look for oral strips. They dissolve faster and, hence, the sugar in them spends less time in contact with your teeth, potentially lessening the possibility of tooth decay.

What about mints that tout they’re sugar-free? Dr Leong Hon Chiew from Dr HC Leong Dental Surgeon has his doubts. “Xylitol is not a sugar, and is less damaging than sugar, but it is still a nutrient source for bacteria,” he says. Peppermint oil is also usually present, but it provides no antibacterial properties. It has a pleasant aroma that counts for its usefulness as a breath freshener. However, breath mints can’t be counted as part of the oral health regime. “In most cases, they don’t do any harm, but mints could make already
present halitosis issues much worse,” he says.

Obviously, you can’t keep brushing 24/7 to keep the mouth funk away. The next best option: simply drink water. “This flushes away sugars, food particles and wets the mouth and throat,” recommends Dr Leong. Many of us don’t drink enough water throughout the  day for this cleansing effect to occur. So, skip the sodas.

So you’ve got bad breath? Brushing more won’t hurt, but most cases of bad breath stem from other factors like a diet high in protein and fat, for instance. In fact, excessive brushing can be detrimental, as exposing the mouth to too much toothpaste actually dries it out, and can encourage bacterial growth instead of limit it. So, if you have to brush more, do it only with tap water – and without toothpaste or mouth rinses, says Dr Leong.


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