Bad breath is a common problem. 96% of the adult population suffer bad breath at some time in their life and most people periodically worry about it. The difficulty of course, that bad breath is impossible to self-detect, so it is very easy to be oblivious to any problem.
The facts about Bad Breath
There are two ends of the spectrum with bad breath:
- “Morning Breath” which most people suffer from. As our salivary glands rest while we are asleep, there is insufficient saliva to wash away bacteria and food debris. It is, however a temporary problem, which can be rectified simply by brushing and rinsing with an anti-bacterial alcohol free mouth rinse.
- “Halitosis” by contrast, is more serious and will need treatment. It is prolonged, often with more severe symptoms, caused by an excess of bacteria giving off odorous gases.
What causes Bad Breath?
Bad breath is principally caused by excess bacteria, which build up in the mouth as a result of inadequate oral hygiene. Thriving in the warm and oxygen free environment, these bacteria feed on the proteins, food debris and dead cells present in the mouth, leaving decay and gum disease in there and foul smelling gases.
- “Food breath” – can be caused by certain foods. Avoid by omitting foods and liquids such as garlic and alcohol.
- “Hunger breath” - caused by the lack of food and liquids as we meal skip. Overcome this by eating and drinking.
- Dental disease - normally resolved by correct oral hygiene routine and visiting the dentist and hygienist regularly.
- Illness - if we are suffering from systemic illness e.g. lung, kidney, liver disease.
- Hormonal changes
Can bad breath be treated?
In most cases bad breath is usually treatable once the proper diagnosis is made. The main problem is whether we know have it or not, mainly because we are poor judges of our own breath odour. Some people suffer from bad breath without knowing it, while others build up exaggerated fears about breath odour even though they do not have it (halitophobia). The best way to find out whether you have bad breath is to ask someone else’s opinion e.g. a member of the family, a close friend or your dentist. And since bad breath can sometimes - fortunately rarely - be a sign of a significant general health problem, we should not be reluctant to tell people dear to us that they have bad breath.
What should you do if you have bad breath?
If you have reason to believe that there is a problem, see your dentist first, since 95% of the time bad breath comes from the mouth. If you make an appointment with the dentist for the sole reason of discussing your problem then it is important that before your appointment you do not: Eat, chew gum, smoke, use mouthwashes etc. Use perfumed cosmetics such as perfume, aftershave and scented lipsticks etc.
The appointment should be postponed if you have been taking antibiotics during or prior to the appointment.
Where does the odour come from?
Most cases of bad breath appear to be due to the break down of proteins by a variety of microorganisms. Several of the breakdown products are foul smelling gases.
In people with healthy teeth and gums, the odour usually comes from the far back region of the tongue. 85% of bad breath from the mouth originates here. This area can be sampled with a plastic spoon.
Hints and Tips on how to achieve long lasting Fresh Breath.
It is important to ensure that excess bacteria and debris are removed from the mouth. No single oral hygiene technique is sufficient to remove them all - bacteria are very tenacious- so to achieve the ultimate fresh breath confidence, it is vital to combine brushing and flossing with the use of a good mouth rinse.
- Visit the dentist regularly.
- Have your teeth cleaned periodically by the dentist or oral hygienist.
- Floss between your teeth everyday.
- Brush your teeth and gums properly
- Clean your tongue as far back as possible with a tongue cleaner.
- Chew sugar free gum for a few moments, especially if your mouth feels dry.
- Drink liquids. Clean your mouth after eating or drinking milk products, fish or meat.
- Ask a family member to tell you whenever you have bad breath.
- Use a recommended mouthwash. Use it most effectively before sleeping.
- Get depressed, Get help.
- Ignore your gums - you can lose your teeth as well as smell bad.
- Brush your tongue with a regular toothpaste- its better to dip your tooth brush in mouthwash for tongue cleaning.
- Give mouthwash to very young children, as they may swallow it.
- Clean your tongue so hard that it hurts.
- Rely on mouthwash alone- practice complete oral hygiene.