Smelly breath can be embarrassing but getting rid of it is usually easy.
While we all might have it in the morning after a big night or a few hours after a garlic-heavy meal, about one in four of us is thought to suffer from halitosis (the medical term for bad breath) on a regular basis. It can affect anyone at any age. And though it might not seem like the most pressing of medical problems, halitosis can be embarrassing and socially limiting.
But with halitosis, as with so much else, knowledge is power. When you know the cause of your bad breath, you’re halfway to being rid of it for good.
The odour is caused by foul smelling gases called Volatile Sulphur Compounds. These are released when microorganisms, such as plaque bacteria which coat our teeth and gums, break down proteins. Food and drink such as garlic, onions and coffee can contribute to the problem.
Do you have bad breath?
First of all you need to know if you have bad breath or not and, let’s face it, your friends are unlikely to tell you if you do. A simple test is to lick the back of your wrist and wait a few seconds. If your wrist is a bit smelly, it’s likely your breath is too.
Poor oral hygiene
The most common causes of bad breath is, quite simply, poor oral hygiene. When you eat food, some will get stuck on your teeth and this causes the build-up of bacteria. If you don’t remove this thoroughly when cleaning your teeth, it will develop a bad smell.
Brushing your teeth twice a day and cleaning between your teeth regularly will clear trapped food. Regular dental examinations will ensure that poor oral hygiene habits are picked up early. Your tongue can harbour smelly bacteria too, so if you’re concerned about bad breath try cleaning your tongue every day as well.
Probably the most common site for bacteria and trapped food is between the teeth. Deposits also build up easily around the edges of fillings and crowns and even on and around dentures. Unless cleaned away daily, bad breath may develop. Those of you who are already using floss or other aids to clean between your teeth will know that there are a lot of deposits in there that the toothbrush leaves behind. You can even smell the offending odour on the dirty floss – not pleasant I know – but it can help you identify areas that may be causing halitosis.
Food and drink
It stands to reason that strong smelling food and drink will lead to strong smelling breath, at least for a while. Garlic and onions are obvious culprits, and spicy food can also leave an unpleasant odour. Most of us are also aware that alcohol and caffeine can sometimes cause the breath of a loved one to be less than appealing!
Strangely, not eating enough can also lead to bad breath. Crash dieting causes the breakdown of fat resulting in the release of chemicals called ketones, which can leave a sickly sweet odour on the breath. Not keeping hydrated during the day can also result in bad breath, so keep that bottle of water handy for a regular sip.
The good thing is that bad breath caused by food and drink tends to be temporary, and can easily be disguised (by chewing gum, say) or avoided. Many of us push the raw onions to one side when we’re out on a date, for instance.
Smoking is one of the main causes of bad breath. The distinctive odour is due to the build-up of tar, nicotine and other noxious substances on the teeth, tongue and cheeks. Smoking also dries the mouth, which can make the odour worse. Some mouthwashes that contain alcohol can have a similar drying affect.
To add insult to injury, smoking is also a cause of gum disease, which in turn causes bad breath. Oh, and to top it all, smoking stains teeth and reduces your sense of taste. The only solution to this vicious circle is to quit.
Bad breath can sometimes just be a first-thing-in-the-morning problem for many of us. Your mouth dries out during the night, meaning there’s less saliva to carry away smelly bacteria. It can be worse for snorers and those who tend to breathe through their mouth rather than nose. The solution is simple though. Eat breakfast, and the saliva you produce will quickly give your mouth a good clear out.
Please ask us for advice. We can help to find the cause of any problem. We can also help you choose the best oral hygiene products for your mouth, such as floss or brushes, and demonstrate how to use them effectively.