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MY BREATH SMELLS, WHAT SHOULD I DO? : One reader ask the dentist!

Ask Dr. Merrick

Dr. Merrick, thanks for your time and for answering my question. I have tried everything but some of the people around me still tell me that my breath smells.  I brush 2 to 3 times a day, and these days I walk around with a toothbrush and toothpaste in my pocket. I have tried Crest, Colgate, Close up, Ultrabrite, and tons of no-name brands – you name it, I’ve tried it. I brush with toothpaste, wash my mouth out with soap, and then brush again, and still get the complaints.  And the interesting thing is that I do not eat a lot and do not believe in mints and gums – all of that sugary stuff is not healthy. This is very embarrassing for me, Doc, and I need your advice on this.  – Tyndale R., Bronx

Great question. Mouth odors have more than one cause. I see that you have the brushing aspect of cleaning your teeth down to a science. In addition to brushing, another cause of bad breath is food getting caught between the teeth and gums. Flossing is the most effective way to eliminate odors because it eliminates food getting caught in pockets, like the pocket on a shirt or blouse, where food gets caught, decays and can’t be reached by your toothbrush.

Check to see if your gums are swollen and red or if there are stone-like deposits on the backs of your lower teeth called tartar. If either is present, then that’s a second cause of bad breath. Please visit your dentist for assistance.

The next cause of bad breath is “dry mouth” where there is not enough saliva to moisten the food that is eaten before swallowing so it must be moistened with an additional liquid like juice, soda, or water. Dry mouth is also associated with medications for high blood pressure and diabetes that cause the gums to bleed, swell, and smell. For this, a collaboration between your dentist and physician is recommended.


Blessings on you, Doc. Lately, I have been spitting blood whenever I brush my teeth and I can’t understand why. I am 38 years old and thoroughly brush my teeth twice every day. I have all my teeth and a very beautiful smile that comes with lots of compliments, especially from the guys. With all of this bleeding, I am wondering if one or more of my teeth might be falling out.  – Cherine M., Manhattan 

Dr. Merrick - bleeding gums
Bleeding gums – when brushing

A beautiful smile in addition to plenty of compliments from the guys is a great self-esteem booster. Bleeding gums, also called gingivitis, is usually easy to treat. Bleeding gums is generally caused by food getting stuck between the teeth and gums after eating. Flossing pulls the trapped food to the inside and outside of the gums, where it is easily whisked away by your toothbrush. Flossing and then brushing may be your solution. Give it 2 weeks of flossing followed by brushing and you should see a marked improvement and your gums may not bleed at all. Floss and brush twice daily and see if one of those guys, like the song says, likes what they see enough to “put a ring on it.” 


Dr. Merrick, my teeth are very yellow even though I brush several times a week ever since I have known myself some 50-something years ago. I do not smoke or drink coffee and my co-workers who smoke and drink seem to have whiter teeth than mine. I have tried umpteen whitening products and programs, and just spent $700 on a whitening treatment but I have seen no change. I do not want to sound desperate, Doc, but my yellow teeth are stressing me out.  – Zelma W., Brooklyn

Hello, Desperate. A brief lesson in tooth anatomy will help with an understanding of why the whitening products are not working to your satisfaction.

When we smile, the tooth that we see has 3 layers. Starting from the outside in, the first layer is the enamel, which the whitening products work on. The next inner level is the dentin, which is a yellow-brown color, followed by the nerve itself.

After fifty-something years of scrubbing and brushing your teeth, the outer enamel gets thinner and thinner, leaving the yellow-brown second layer called dentin to become more prominent. Whitening products become useless on this thinned enamel.

Laminate veneers, thin porcelain shells that bond to the outside of those darkened teeth, can restore those affected teeth to the luster of your teen years. 

Research laminate veneers on youtube for understanding, then give it a try. 

I tried laminate veneers, personally, and my smile goes good with jeans or a tuxedo.

Dr. Merrick
Dr. Leon Merrick, DDS.

Dr. Leon Merrick is a graduate of New York University, an accredited member of the American Dental Association, and a national dental health lecturer.  He also chairs the medical ministry at Abyssinian Baptist Church.  Dr. Merrick’s Dental Studio is located at 260 W. 139th Street, New York, NY.  212-281-1282.  Visit drmerrickdds.com or email contact@drmerrickdds.com for additional information.