Dealing with bad breath

Here is our guide to getting back the self-confidence that worries about bad breath can ruin.

Spot the signs of bad breath. Lots of small signals can show that you have bad breath. Have you noticed people stepping away when you start to talk? Do people turn their cheek when you kiss them goodbye? If you think you might have bad breath, there is a simple test that you can do. Simply lick the inside of your wrist and sniff - if the smell is bad, you can be pretty sure that your breath is too. Of course, you can also ask a very good friend to be absolutely honest.

Watch out for the common causes of bad breath. Persistent bad breath is usually caused by the smelly gases released by the bacteria that coat your teeth and gums. Bits of food that get caught between the teeth and on the tongue will rot and can sometimes cause an unpleasant smell. Other common causes include strong foods like garlic, coffee and onions. Tobacco also causes its own form of bad breath and the only solution in this case is to stop smoking.

More worryingly, bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth is sometimes a symptom of something more serious. Conditions including disease, xerostomia (dry mouth), infections in the throat, nose or lungs, sinusitis, bronchitis, diabetes or even liver or kidney problems can all cause bad breath. This is why a visit to the dentist is advisable if a change in your dental hygiene procedure (see below) fails to cure the problem.

Start a routine for keeping your mouth clean and fresh. Here are some of the main steps you can take:

  • Brush regularly. Correct and regular brushing is very important to keep your breath smelling fresh as it will remove most of the food fragments that usually are the cause of bad breath. Brush your teeth and gums for two minutes, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Don’t forget to brush your tongue as well.
  • Watch what you eat. Try keeping a diary of all the foods you eat and list any medicines you are taking. Take this diary to your dentist who may be able to suggest ways to solve the problem. Cut down on sugary food and drinks.
  • Floss your teeth. Brushing alone only cleans up to about 60 percent of the surface of your teeth.
  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash. This will kill the bacteria that could be making your breath smell unpleasant. However, most mouthwashes only disguise bad breath for a short time so if the problem persists talk to your dentist.
  • Chew sugar-free gum. This stimulates saliva and stops your mouth drying out - a dry mouth can lead to bad breath.

Take special care if you wear dentures. Take them out at night to give your mouth a chance to rest and clean them twice a day. Clean them thoroughly with soap and lukewarm water, a denture cream or a denture-cleaning tablet. Use a denture brush kept just for the purpose. Remember to clean the surfaces that fit against your gums and palate. This will make sure your dentures are always fresh and clean, and avoid the plaque build-up on the denture that may cause bad breath.

Visit your dentist regularly. If despite all your efforts your bad breath persists you should visit your dentist, especially as there could be a more serious underlying problem.