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Ask Dr. Gott 9/11

Breath of fresh air for halitosis sufferer

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a 23-year-old female and should have a great social life, but I don't because of one serious problem. I have bad breath! It is so embarrassing that it has cost me every ounce of confidence I had and has ruined my relationships with everyone.
    I've tried just about everything from my local drug store, but nothing seems to work. I brush, floss and use mouthwash at least twice a day. I've done some research and know this is not the root of the problem, which began when I was in high school and was allowed to chew gum in school. Is there anything in gum that could have started this? Mints and gum seem to be only a temporary fix, and most of the time they make my problem worse.
    I know I am going to have to see a doctor, but whom do I make an appointment with? This is so embarrassing that I don't want to go to more doctors than I need to.
    I really need some answers.
    DEAR READER: I am unaware of any component of chewing gum that would cause bad breath. And, yes, you will probably need to see a doctor. First things first.
    Halitosis (bad breath) is often caused by poor oral hygiene, dental or mouth infections, tobacco use, the eating of certain foods such as garlic, alcohol consumption, or by some diseases, such as diabetes and liver disease. Because you are so conscientious about your condition, I can almost positively rule out poor dental hygiene and infection. Further, because you have been fighting this since school, it may take a little time to get to the bottom of the problem.
    I get the impression you don't see doctors often or have a primary-care physician. Because of the referral system in place with so many insurance companies, you might need to select one. Ask a friend or neighbor for a recommendation. You needn't indicate why you are asking. Make an appointment and explain your predicament. If he or she can offer an appropriate solution to your halitosis, all is well. If not, request a referral to a dentist or ear-nose-and-throat specialist. Without insurance, you can call a specialist directly, but a primary-care physician with answers might be able to eliminate that expense. If the recommendation is to a dentist, you probably won't need any referral.
    While you are waiting for either appointment, there are several alternatives you might consider. If you don't already eat them, try adding avocadoes to your diet. They are effective and often superior to many mouth rinses. Unripe guava, fruit and vegetable juices and parsley are other options. In the case of parsley, boil two cups water and several sprigs of coarsely chopped parsley together. Steep with either 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves or two whole cloves. Strain the solution and use it as a mouthwash, gargling two or three times daily.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Medical Specialists."

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