Bad breath is one of those small issues that can feel like a bit of a social disaster. Around a quarter of us suffer from it regularly and many of us have experienced bad breath on the odd occasion, so most of us understand just how embarrassing it can be. You might struggle to talk to people because you don’t want to breathe on them and this can impact on confidence and make you feel shy and awkward. However, you may not notice your own bad breath – it’s very easy to detect in others but sometimes it’s not until someone reacts that we realise we ourselves have it too. If you want to carry out a quick test then either ask someone you know (and trust) to smell your breath and tell you what it smells like to them – or, alternatively, lick the inside of your wrist. If your wrist smells bad then your breath probably does too.
Bad breath – also known as halitosis – is usually simply caused by poor oral health. Pieces of food get stuck on your tongue and in between your teeth and it’s that which causes the bad smell. You might also be getting bad breath from eating foods like onions, garlic, drinking coffee or smoking. Other causes of halitosis might include tonsil stones (where food debris collects on the surface of your tonsils) or medical conditions such as a throat infection, diabetes, gastritis, or problems with your liver or kidneys.
Unless your halitosis is being caused by an underlying medical condition there are steps that you can take to make sure you’re always minty fresh:
- Scrape your tongue – use a toothbrush or tongue scraper to remove the bacteria on the tongue that normal brushing might not reach.
- Brush your teeth – twice a day is ideal, with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss – 40% of the surface area of your teeth is left untouched by brushing and floss can help get to those areas. Flossing removes food from in between the teeth, which is one of the primary causes of stinky breath.
- Rinse – an antibacterial mouthwash that is alcohol free and contains chlorhexidine or hydrogen peroxide is ideal. Use just before bedtime.
- Chew – sugar free gum will stimulate the saliva in your mouth and make sure that it doesn’t dry out (which is another cause of bad breath).However, remember that chewing gum is never a substitute for brushing.
- Quit – smoking is a major cause of bad breath on its own but will also increase your chances of gum disease, which is another culprit for halitosis.
It’s a good idea to make sure you check in with your dentist at least once a year to ensure you have good oral hygiene. If you’re struggling with consistent bad breath then keep a food diary for a month or so beforehand and take this with you so the dentist can offer some more advice.