Bad breath – What are we talking about?
Bad breath or halitosis is a common problem which most of us will have suffered from or worried about at one time or another. It is frequently simply caused by external factors – eating smelly foods like garlic or curry, or smoking. If that’s not the case, it’s most likely the result of bacterial activity in the mouth due to poor oral hygiene. The problem is, most sufferers are either too embarrassed to talk about it or don’t even realise they’ve got it.
What’s the big deal?
If food or cigarettes aren’t to blame, then it’s almost bound to be an oral hygiene or health-related issue. Indeed, bad breath may be one of the first indicators of an underlying oral health problem, including gum disease or even mouth cancer, or a wider health issue.
How can I tell if I have bad breath?
Take your courage in both hands and ask a friend. Failing that, lick the back of your hand, leave it to dry, and if it smells, you may have a problem. Bad breath is also often accompanied by a furry tongue.
What are the main oral hygiene causes?
Generally, it can be due to not cleaning your teeth properly, especially between teeth. Bacteria naturally present in the mouth will attack plaque and break down any food debris stuck between teeth, so you basically end up with rotting food in your mouth! If plaque is allowed to build up, through poor brushing and/or not going for a professional scale and polish at least once a year, it can result in gum disease, another cause of bad breath.
What can I do to stop that?
It’s very easy – follow a good daily oral hygiene routine to keep your teeth clean and mouth fresh: brush morning and night, preferably with an electric brush as these have been shown to be more effective than manual brushes; clean between your teeth once a day with floss or interdental brushes; and don’t forget to also clean your tongue and to rinse with alcohol-free mouthwash. Also, go for regular dental check-ups and hygiene appointments so any problems can be spotted early on.
What other things can help?
Drinking enough water, as dehydration can result in a drop in saliva production leading to dry mouth, particularly at night (hence ‘morning breath’), cutting back on alcohol and coffee, and eating a healthy, balanced diet. Be warned that crash dieting can itself cause bad breath as a result of the release of chemicals in the breakdown of fat.
Any other causes?
In about one in 10 cases, bad breath may indicate hidden illness or disease, which may include mouth, nose or throat problems, respiratory infections or ulcers, uncontrolled diabetes or various digestive problems. However, such causes are definitely more rare than oral care-related ones.
Any final advice?
If improving your oral hygiene and/or eating habits doesn’t do the trick and the problem persists, you should certainly visit your dentist, who will refer you to a doctor if the problem doesn’t appear related to dental care or oral hygiene. As always, go for trust and experience, not simply cost.