Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

While we may all be curious about the best plunger or probiotic tampon or cold-sore remedy, it can be difficult to discuss these more personal items. That’s why we’re tackling Things We Don’t Talk About, a series in which we track down the best hygiene-, sex-, and bodily function–related things we all need but might be too embarrassed to ask about. In this installment, we consult experts on the best treatments for bad breath.

There is morning breath and then there’s bad breath — that persistent, noxious smell even mouthwash can’t kill. Most of us want to avoid both. “Socially and in the workplace, bad breath is a really bad thing, like body odor,” says halitosis expert Steven Fox, D.D.S., of Fox Fresh Breath Dental. And while eating garlic or anchovies would be an obvious culprit, “80 percent of bad breath usually comes from the dental environment (like gingivitis or bad dental hygiene), and 20 percent from things like indigestion, tonsils, or sinuses,” says Scott Froum, a periodontist who often treats cases of bad breath. At the root of bad breath is the build up of bad bacteria, which “naturally live in your mouth,” according to Dr. Ben El Chami, the co-founder and chief dental officer at dntl bar. “The bacteria feed on the leftover food material in your mouth and cause a foul smell as a byproduct.”

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