Dealing with bad breath

Halitosis, or bad breath as it's commonly known, can affect anyone at any age, and according to the NHS an estimated one in four people suffer with the problem on a regular basis.

How to deal with bad breath

Pic: Getty

While bad breath can leave some with low self esteem, there are ways that you can improve the problem, or prevent it happening.

The cause
There are a number of factors that can cause halitosis, but it is often as a result of poor oral hygiene. Inside your mouth, lurking bacteria break down trapped pieces of food, releasing the unpleasant smell, and a build-up of such bacteria will only exacerbate the problem. Furthermore, if you suffer from bad breath on an almost permanent basis, it could be a sign of gum disease.

As most will be aware, foods such as onions and garlic are bad breath culprits, and smoking and drinking alcohol may also lead to a problem.

Do you have it?
Unfortunately, in most cases, others will notice your bad breath before you do, but if you are concerned that you may have a halitosis problem, try licking the inside of your wrist and leaving to dry. An unpleasant odour on the wrist almost certainly points to bad breath.

There are a number of breath fresheners on the shelves that may mask the problem temporarily, but the best treatment (depending on the cause) often comes down to an improved oral hygiene routine.

You should brush your teeth twice a day and for around two minutes each time, paying particular attention to the area where tooth meets gum. Remember too that brushing alone cleans only about 60 per cent of the surface enamel, so it's a good idea to use dental floss to remove the food particles that can lead to halitosis. Your tongue will also need some attention, and many brushes now include a cleaner specifically for that purpose on the back of the brush head. A rinse with an anti-bacterial mouthwash, while it shouldn't replace brushing, may also help to reduce bad breath.

Be aware though that brushing immediately after drinking or eating acidic foods such as fruit or white wine may actually cause teeth to erode more quickly, so it's best to wait at least 30 minutes before giving your gnashers a brush-up.

If you wear dentures, make sure to remove them overnight, and clean them thoroughly before putting them in the following morning.

Tips for fresher breath
Since the kinds of food and drink we consume can have a serious effect on the freshness of our breath, there are certain items it's best to avoid if you tend towards halitosis.

A healthy, balanced diet packed with fresh fruit and veg will help to keep your mouth, as well as the rest of your body, in good order, as will drinking plenty of water.

If you know you have a problem, avoid sugary foods and drinks that can increase the amount of bacteria in the mouth, and stay clear of strongly flavoured, spicy foods. Cutting down on alcohol and coffee, and giving up smoking will also make a significant difference.

Last but not least, do visit your dentist and hygienist regularly - they will also be able to advise you on methods to alleviate bad breath, and check for early signs of gum disease.

Do you suffer from halitosis? What advice would you give others with the problem? Leave your comments below...