We all have experienced bad breath, halitosis – either our own or someone else’s. Sometimes people may not even be aware of their bad breath, which is a foul odour usually originating from inside the mouth.
There are a few causes of this problem, the most common being poor oral hygiene. Other common causes can be:
- diet – for example, consumption of garlic and onions
- dry mouth (xerostomia) – if your mouth is dry and your saliva production is reduced due to medications and systemic illness or disturbances, your saliva will stop assisting to break down and wash away the food you eat. Bad breath in such instances can be accompanied by a bad taste. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist for advice on managing xerostomia.
To help ensure you always have fresh breath:
- Practise good oral hygiene. Brush twice a day with toothpaste; this will help remove plaque and food from your teeth and gums.
- Use floss or inter-dental brushes daily. The gaps between our teeth and under our gums are natural traps for food and plaque, and toothbrush bristles alone cannot reach these areas.
- Attend to your tongue hygiene as part of your overall oral hygiene. Food and plaque bacteria nestles into the surface and natural folds of the tongue – and, if left behind, this bacteria will continue to multiply, producing a foul odour. Many toothbrushes come with a tongue cleaner on the back of the brush, or you can get a separate tongue scraper, including those for electric toothbrushes. When cleaning the tongue, place the cleaner as far back as you can and move towards the tip of your tongue, then rinse the cleaner and repeat a couple of times.
- If you have any implants, crowns or bridges present, ask your dentist or dental hygienist to advise you on products and cleaning techniques as it is very important to clean these restorations daily.
- If you wish to use a mouth rinse, make sure it is alcohol free. Any mints or chewing gum that you consume should be sugar free.
- Drink plenty of water to assist with keeping your mouth hydrated and fresh.
- Change your toothbrush every 3 months for effective cleaning.
- Organise regular 6-monthly check-ups and cleans to ensure optimal oral health.
If your bad breath persists even though you have been following your oral health professional’s advice and practising good oral home care, the cause of your bad breath may be systemic and not related to your mouth, for example:
- sinus infections
- gastro-intentional problems
- renal disorders
Although not the common causes of halitosis, the possible presence of any of these medical conditions should be addressed by your general practitioner.