Bad Breath

Bad breath is a common complaint and there are many causes. Persistent bad breath is usually caused by the smelly odours released by the bacteria that coat your teeth, gums and tongue. Also, pieces of food that get caught between the teeth and on the tongue will breakdown and can sometimes cause an unpleasant smell. Strong foods like garlic, coffee and onions can add to the problem. So it is important to brush your teeth correctly and regularly. This will help keep your breath smelling fresh.

The bacteria and food debris on our teeth and gums (known as ‘plaque') also cause gum disease and tooth decay. One of the early warning signs of gum disease is that you always have bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth. The earlier the problems are found, the more effective the treatment will be. Your dentist will be able to see and treat the problem during your regular check-ups.

Bad breath can be caused by some medical problems. ‘Dry mouth' is a condition that means your mouth produces less saliva. This means bacteria build up in your mouth and it leads to bad breath. Dry mouth may be caused by some medicines, by salivary gland problems or by continually breathing through your mouth instead of your nose. Older people often produce less saliva, which causes further problems.

Other medical conditions that may cause bad breath include infections in the throat, nose or lungs; sinusitis; bronchitis; diabetes; or liver or kidney problems. If your dentist finds that your mouth is healthy, you may be referred to your physician or a specialist to find out the cause of your bad breath.

If you suffer from dry mouth, your dentist may be able to recommend or prescribe an artificial saliva product. Or he/she may be able to suggest other ways of dealing with the problem.

Yes. Tobacco causes its own type of odour. The only answer in this case is to stop smoking. As well as making your breath smell, smoking causes staining of teeth and tissues, loss of taste, and also irritates the gums. Ask your dentist, pharmacist or healthcare professional for help with stopping smoking. If you do stop smoking, but still have persistent bad breath, then you need to see your dental team or doctor for advice.

Lots of small signs can show that you have bad breath. Have you noticed people stepping away from you when you start to talk? Do you have a different taste in your mouth all the time?. If you think you might have bad breath, there is a simple test that you can do. Just lick the inside of your wrist and sniff - if the smell is bad, you can be fairly sure that your breath is too. Or, ask a very good friend to be absolutely honest with you.

We probably all know someone who has bad breath, but very few people feel brave enough to discuss this problem. It is obviously a very delicate matter to tell someone they have bad breath. This can often pose a strain in various relationships, both at work and at home. There is always the risk that they will be offended or embarrassed and may never speak to you again! However, it is always worth remembering that facing the problem is the first step to solving it. Once the person is aware of their bad breath, they can deal with whatever is causing it. You could try talking to their partner or a family member, as the bad breath may be caused by a medical condition which is already being treated. You can also simply forward this link to the person.

To keep your breath fresh, you must get rid of any gum infections, and keep your mouth clean.

  • Maintenance of a good oral hygiene is the first step towards good breath. Brush your teeth and gums last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with a fluoride toothpaste. Don't forget to brush your tongue as well, or use a tongue scraper.
  • Use a mouthwash - some contain antibacterial agents that could kill bacteria that make your breath smell unpleasant.
  • Clean in between your teeth with ‘interdental' brushes or floss at least once a day - brushing alone only cleans up to about 60 percent of the surface of your teeth. There are other products you can buy to clean between your teeth
  • Lastly, Cut down on how often you have sugary food and drinks.
  • If you continue to suffer from bad breath visit your dentist to make sure that the mouthwash is not covering up a more serious underlying problem. Also, maintain a List of any medicines you’re taking and Inform your Dentist of the same, as often various drugs can affect the oral cavity in a way that causes odour.

It is just as important to clean dentures as it is to clean your natural teeth. Bits of food can become caught around the edges of dentures and clasps, and the food can breakdown and have same effect if you do not clean them thoroughly.

Clean your dentures over a bowl of water to avoid damage in case you drop them. You should keep a separate toothbrush for cleaning your dentures. The best method is: brush, soak and brush again. Brush your dentures before soaking them, to help remove any bits of food. Soak the dentures in a denture cleaner solution for a short time and then brush the dentures again. Brush them like you would brush your natural teeth.

Make sure you clean all the surfaces of the dentures, including the surface which fits against your tissues. If you notice a build-up of stains or scale, have your dentures cleaned by your dental team. Most dentists still recommend a small to medium-headed toothbrush, or a specialised denture brush, if you can get one.

You should not use a mouthwash simply to disguise bad breath. Special products do exist for management of bad breath but you should consult your dentist to first identify the cause of bad breath. Some mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine, and are recommended for gum disease patients, can cause tooth staining if you use them for a long time. Hence it is important to read the manufacturer's instructions or ask your dentist how to use them.

If you do have bad breath, you will need to start a routine for keeping your mouth clean and fresh. Regular check-ups will help your dentist identify the potential causes of your bad breath, and also helps your dentist to watch out for any places where plaque is caught between your teeth. Your dentist will be able to clean all those areas that are difficult to reach, often by a procedure called as scaling / oral prophylaxis. They will also be able to show you the best way to clean your teeth and gums, and show you any areas you may be missing, including your tongue. As prevention is better than a cure, a regular visit to your dentist, even in absence of bad breath, can help you in early identification of the problem.

Last updated on 02 December, 2018.

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