Bad Breath

What causes bad breath?

Most people suffer from bad breath occasionally. However, if it happens often or becomes persistent you should consult your dentist. Occasional bad breath is usually caused by strong foods like garlic, onions and coffee. Persistent bad breath is usually brought on by the breakdown of proteins by bacteria somewhere in the mouth, usually as a result of gum disease or dry mouth. However, problems with the airways, oesphagus and stomach can also lead to bad breath. Smoking causes its own type of bad breath as well as leading to higher levels of gum disease and dry mouth.

Factors that affect the mouth and cause bad breath
Factors that affect the airways and cause bad breath
Factors that affect the mouth and cause bad breath

In rare cases, bad breath can be a sign of a significant general health problem, so it should not be ignored.

However, the usual cause is from gum disease, which can often be treated to resolve the problem.

How do you know if you have bad breath?

A simple lick and sniff test will help you tell if you have bad breath. Lick the back of your wrist and let it dry. If this smells, it's likely that you have bad breath.

How can bad breath be treated?

As bad breath is almost always caused by a problem in the mouth, it is helpful to visit a dentist. Do not try to mask the odour before the visit – it needs to be as typical as possible.

If there is any dental treatment required to treat gum disease or reduce food stagnation areas, this will be carried out.

Most bad breath is as a result of gum disease and treatment of the gum disease by scaling and polishing the teeth and teaching a good home oral care routine will help reduce the bad breath.

If no oral cause can be identified by your dentist they may suggest that you a attend a clinic that specialises in breath odours, or that you visit your doctor.

Some people become excessively concerned about bad breath, in which case counselling can help put what may in reality be a minor problem into perspective.

What can you do for yourself?

Maintain a high level of dental and mouth hygiene. In addition to brushing twice a day for two minutes at a time with a fluoride toothpaste containing an antibacterial, it is important to clean between the teeth using interdental brushes or dental floss, as recommended by your dentist, hygienist or pharmacist. Use a tongue cleaner and clean right to the back of the tongue.

Use a mouthwash containing an antibacterial ingredient as recommended by your dentist, hygienist or pharmacist after brushing. It is important not to use a mouthwash just to mask bad breath.

Use a tongue cleaner and clean right to the back of the tongue. Drink plenty of fluids, avoiding too much coffee.

Chew sugar-free gum after meals and especially if your mouth feels dry.

Eat a healthy diet with at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day.

Visit your dentist regularly as often as they recommend and have your teeth professionally cleaned as needed.