Millions of people suffer from bad breath and are unaware they have a problem - but bad breath is unpleasant and embarrassing. And friends are more likely to keep their distance or turn away when you kiss them than to tell you that you have bad breath.
How can you tell if you do have a problem? Try this: lick the inside of your wrist and sniff - if the smell is bad, you can be pretty sure that your breath is too.
What causes bad breath? The first possibility is that bits of food can become trapped between your teeth and on your tongue - as they decay, they cause an unpleasant smell. This problem is much worse with very smelly foods such as onions, garlic, spices or coffee.
Smoking causes its own form of bad breath due to deposits of tar and nicotine on your tongue, cheeks and teeth - the drying effect of smoking makes the smell worse.
Persistent bad breath is usually caused by the smelly gasses released by the bacteria that coat your teeth, gums and tongue. Dentures, orthodontic appliances, faulty crowns and fillings can trap more of the bacteria and make the problem worse. Bad breath can also be an indication of gum disease or tooth decay.
A very small proportion of bad breath is caused by medical conditions or medication; by nose, throat or lung infection; by diabetes or kidney disease.
Curing and preventing bad breath
- Avoid smelly foods such as onions, garlic, spices, coffee.
- Avoid smoking and drinking coffee, which may worsen bad breath.
- Eat a good breakfast including fresh fruit (pineapple, for example, helps clean your mouth).
- Keep your mouth as moist as possible by drinking water regularly or using sugar-free chewing gum.
- Brush your teeth after every meal.
- Use floss and interdental cleaning regularly.
- Avoid cosmetic mouthwashes; they mask the smell for an average of only ten minutes, and because they contain alcohol will dry your mouth and so make the problem worse.
- Rinse night, morning and after eating smelly food with oral rinses that break down the smelly chemicals; these will be effective for five hours.
- Brush or scrape your tongue before bed.
- See our dental hygienist regularly.