Okay first things first….. How do I know if I have bad breath?
Well one easy way to check if you do have bad breath is to lick the inside of your wrist, wait until your saliva dries, then smell your wrist. If your wrist smells well distasteful then it is likely that your breath isn’t too fresh either.
If you do have bad breath there is no need to worry it is treatable and affects at least one in four people!
In order to eradicate your bad breath you must find out what is causing it – this could be due to: oral hygiene, diet, smoking, alcohol, medical causes or medication. So first up oral hygiene!
Bad oral hygiene will cause bad breath (halitosis), as the bacteria break down proteins and other debris in your mouth they produce fetid smelling gasses. One or more of the following may contribute to the build-up of bacteria, debris and bad breath:
• Food stuck between teeth The sole use of a toothbrush will not clear remainders of food which can get stuck, lodge and hide in-between teeth. The food then rots and becomes riddled with bacteria. Regular cleaning between the teeth can clear and prevent this problem. Flossing is the perfect tool for this see the article – flossing a must or a maybe?
• Plaque, tartar (calculus) and gum disease Dental plaque is a soft yellowy/white deposit that forms on the surface of teeth, it is a result of bacteria combined with food and saliva. Plaque contains many types of bacteria. Calculus/ tartar is hardened (calcified)plaque. It sticks firmly to teeth. Left there this will cause gum disease and as a result –bad breath. If you have got to the stage where you do have calculus/tartar you need to book yourself in with your dentist or hygienist to remove this.
• Coating on the back of the tongue Some people may find that a coating develops on the back part of the tongue. There can be many different reasons as to why this can occur, even a person maintaining good oral hygiene can have build ups such as these. Some people have what is called a postnasal drip this is when mucus drips down from the back of the nose. The coating can contain many bacteria. This explains why bad breath can sometimes occur in people with otherwise good oral hygiene. Whilst trying to rid your unpleasant breath – try using a tongue scraper as this tool is specifically made for this purpose.
• Tonsil stones (tonsilloliths). These are clusters of calcified material that form in the tonsillar crypts, or crevices of the tonsils. They are made up mostly of calcium but can contain other ingredients such as magnesium and phosphorus, and can feel like a small lump in the tonsils. They are rarely harmful however, they can be a nuisance, hard to remove and can often cause bad breath.
Looking carefully at your diet is important when trying to decipher what is causing your bad breath.
Strong flavoured foodssuch as garlic, onions and spices – is likely to make your breath smell. Strong-smelling drinks – such as coffee and alcohol – will also cause bad breath. Bad breath caused by food and drink is usually temporary, and can be avoided by not eating or drinking these types of food and drink too often. Good dental hygiene will also help.
Crash dieting, fasting and low-carbohydrate diets can also cause bad breath. These cause the body to break down fat, which produces chemicals called ketones that can be smelt when breathing out.
Smoking is another cause of bad breath. As well as making your breath smell, smoking can also stain your teeth, irritate your gums and lessen your sense of taste.
Smoking also increases your risk of developing gum disease, which is another cause of bad breath. Stopping smoking will lower your risk of gum disease, oral cancer and thus help prevent bad breath and bad health!
Dry mouth (xerostomia), affects the flow of saliva and disturbs your mouths natural cleaning routine.
Lack of saliva causes bacteria to build up in the mouth, leading to bad breath. Dry mouth can sometimes be caused by salivary gland problems or breathing through your mouth instead of your nose.
Medical conditions that can cause bad breath include (but are not limited to):
• lung, throat or nose infections, such as bronchiectasis
• Gastrotestinal conditions
Some medication can also cause bad breath. Medications associated with bad breath include (but are not limited to):
• nitrates – which are sometimes used to treat angina (chest pain caused by a restriction in the blood supply to the heart)
• some chemotherapy medication
• tranquilisers (phenothiazines)
If the medication you’re taking is causing bad breath, your GP may be able to recommend an alternative.
If you have done everything recommended and you still feel you are suffering from halitosis it is advisable and important that you book an appointment with your Dentist or Doctor as there may be an underlying issue.