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Which Breath Mints Work Best?

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After a big hunk of garlic bread or a steak and onions burrito for lunch, you might want to do yourself and your office neighbors a favor by popping a couple of breath mints.

Breath fresheners -- including gum, mouthwash and strips -- are a multibillion-dollar industry. But they aren't all created equal. The Good Housekeeping Institute tested numerous brands to see which ones were best at banishing bad breath, from garlic to coffee.

They used real consumer testing and measurements with a Halimeter, an instrument that measures the amount of odor-causing sulfur compounds in our breath (the underlying cause of halitosis or "bad breath").

Testers brushed their teeth after breakfast and lunch, and were told not to eat or drink anything until the test. Some ate saltine crackers or garlic bread, while others drank black coffee or water to test each product.

Here are the winners: Starbucks After Coffee Mints came out on top, because it was best at reducing coffee-breath and provided testers with long-lasting freshness. The Halimeter readings showed that Starbucks After Coffee Mints reduced the most odor-causing compounds in their breath. A 5-ounce tin costs $1.95. Available at Starbucks stores only. Listerine PocketPaks Oral Care Strips were best at fighting off garlic-breath and ranked second overall. 16 strips, $1.49. Certs Powerful Mints rounded out the top three, coming in second in garlic-fighting capability. 50 mints, $1.49. There were also a couple of category winners. Best to cover up garlic breath: Listerine Pocket Paks Best to cover up coffee breath: Starbucks After Coffee Mints Best-tasting mint: Wrigley's Eclipse Flash Strips, 24 strips, $1.49. Best for odor coverup: Altoids, 1.76 ounces, $1.79. 

Testers also found that sugary breath mints tended to create more bacteria in the mouth. When looking for a breath freshener, look for sugar-free products that contain xylitol, zinc gluconate or copper gluconate, or triacetin and avoid those that contain sugar, maltodextrin, or lecithins, the testers suggested. Of the products tested, Starbucks After Coffee Mints, which contain xylitol, helped keep "bad breath" at bay for a longer period of time. Get more details on

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