According to Medical News Today, 1 in 4 people globally have bad breath. This makes bad breath a relatively common problem most of us have probably experienced. We asked our dentists what causes bad breath and what you can do to get it under control. Our team have summarised their 10 top tips for you.
What is bad breath?
Bad breath is a commonly occurring health problem. The medical term for it is halitosis. Bad breath is usually the result of poor oral health habits, but it may also be a sign of other health problems.
To find out if you have halitosis, you can ask a close relative or friend to give you feedback on your breath. You can also do a self-test to determine whether you have bad breath. Just lick the back of your hand, leave it to dry, and smell it. If there is a bad small around the back of your hand afterwards, you may have halitosis.
Where does bad breath come from?
Bad breath can occur for a variety of reasons. Some of them are easy to control, others can be only identified after seeing a dentist or a physician. The most common reasons for bad breath are:
The main reason for bad breath is the breakdown process of food particles in the mouth. After eating, food leftovers can be stuck to the teeth, gums, and tongue. Bacteria breaks the food particles down and produces sulphur compounds which give your breath a foul odour.
Some foods such as onions, garlic, or spices can furthermore cause bad breath by entering your bloodstream. After digestion, the smell of foods you digest can carry to your lungs. This means you can smell certain foods for a long time after consumption and they continue to affect your breath.
Diets focusing on the intake of healthy fats and fasting can also cause bad breath. This is due to the breakdown of ketones which are fats producing chemicals and have a strong odour.
Poor oral hygiene habits
Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes and daily flossing are essential to remove food particles from teeth, gums, and your tongue. When they are not brushed away, a sticky film of bacteria called plaque forms on your teeth which will cause bad breath.
If plaque builds up over a longer timeframe, it can form pockets between your teeth and gums and lead to periodontitis. Your tongue can also trap bacteria. For this reason, it is important to clean your tongue as well.
Saliva is the body’s natural way to clean the mouth. If the mouth is naturally dry (after sleeping, for example) or dry due to a disease, odours can build up causing bad breath. The consumption of alcohol and smoking also dehydrate the mouth. If you continuously have a dry mouth, please discuss this issue with your doctor or dentist.
Tips for bad breath
Having bad breath can be embarrassing and even lead to anxiety. However, some easy tips and tricks can help you to keep your breath nice and fresh. We asked our dentists for their top tips to avoid bad breath.
Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft bristled toothbrush to remove food debris and plaque. Remember to also brush your tongue to remove bacteria. Change your manual toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every 2 to 3 months and after being ill.
Dental floss or interdental brushes help you reach spaces your toothbrush can’t clean such as the small gaps between your teeth and your gumline. Use floss or an interdental cleaner once daily to remove food particles and plaque between your teeth. You can learn more about how to floss in our blog post.
Antibacterial mouthwashes can help to reduce bacteria in your mouth. If you are not sure which mouth rinse to buy, ask your dentist at your next visit. They would be more than happy to recommend one for you.
4. Healthy diet
A diet rich in foods which needs to be chewed for a long time (such as carrots and apples) are a great way to increase saliva production in the mouth. Products high in sugar, alcohol and coffee, however, can cause bad breath. Try to limit your intake of these products to avoid halitosis.
5. Quit smoking
Smoking and chewing tobacco lead to an unpleasant mouth odour. It also reduces saliva production which can result in a dry mouth. This makes smokers more prone to develop gum disease which is another source of bad breath.
6. Drink water
Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist. Chewing sugarless chewing gum can also help to stimulate the saliva production.
7. Check medications
Some medications can reduce saliva and, therefore, contribute to a dry mouth and bad breath. Others break down in the body and release chemicals in the breath which cause a foul odour.
8. Clean dentures
Food particles and bacteria can get stuck in between and under dentures. It is essential to take a denture out over night and to clean it thoroughly before reinserting it into the mouth the next morning.
9. Check your mouth for diseases and decay
Tooth decay, periodontitis and other diseases of the mouth can lead to bad breath. Make sure to see a dentist if you experience a tooth ache, bleeding gums, or swelling in your mouth.
10. Regular dental visits
6-monthly dental check-up and cleans will help you to remove built-up plaque and identify any problems early on. Your dentist will also be able to answer any questions about flossing, dry mouth, or preferred toothpastes and mouthwash. Learn more about why it is important to see the dentist regularly.