Bad breath, or halitosis to give it its proper name, affects one-in-four Brits on a regular basis according to the NHS. If you know - or suspect - you have bad breath, here's how to eliminate the problem.
What causes bad breath?
Poor oral hygiene is usually to blame for bad breath, though there may be other causes too. If you don't brush and floss regularly, any food trapped between your teeth will be broken down by bacteria - and when bacteria breaks down food particles it releases an unpleasant smelling gas. It's worth cleaning your tongue regularly (you can buy toothbrushes with tongue-cleaners on the back of the head) as bacteria can also stay on your tongue.
If you have bad breath on an almost permanent basis, it could be a sign of gum disease. Make sure to go for regular dental check-ups and visit the hygienist for a good clean and polish.
The foods you eat can also be to blame. Onions, garlic and spices are bad breath culprits, as are strong-smelling drinks such as coffee and alcohol. Brushing your teeth after eating or using a mouth spray can help.As well as making your breath smell, smoking can irritate your gums and increase your risk of developing gum disease, another cause of bad breath. People on a crash diet, who are fasting, or sticking to a low-carb regime can also suffer with bad breath due to ketones - a chemical produced when the body breaks down fat.
Health conditions and medication
Certain types of medication are known to cause bad breath. These include nitrates (sometimes used to treat angina), some chemotherapy medication and tranquilisers. If you're concerned, speak to your GP who may be able to suggest an alternative.
Bad breath can be caused by a variety of medical conditions. Dry mouth affects the production of saliva, which can lead to a build up of bacteria in the mouth, and may be caused by salivary gland problems or breathing through your mouth instead of your nose.
Sometimes a gastrointestinal condition is to blame, such as a bacterial infections of the stomach or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease. If your doctor suspects a gastrointestinal condition, you may need to have an endoscopy to diagnose the problem.
Other medical conditions that can cause bad breath include lung, throat or nose infections, such as bronchiectasis, bronchitis, sinusitis and diabetes. On rare occasions, bad breath can be the result of lung or throat cancer.
Bad breath test
Others are likely to 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 it to dry. An unpleasant odour on the wrist indidcates bad breath.
What you can do
Depending on the cause of the problem, improved oral hygiene routine is likely to be the best treatment. 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 use dental floss to remove the food particles that can lead to halitosis. A rinse with an anti-bacterial mouthwash, while it shouldn't replace brushing, may also help to reduce bad breath.
There are a number of breath fresheners available, but these will only mask the problem temporarily.
Tips for fresher breath
A well balanced diet packed with plenty fresh fruit and vegetables will help to keep your mouth healthy, as will drinking plenty of water.
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.
Three products that may help:
CB12 Mint-Menthol mouthwash 250ml, £9.99
UltraDex Fresh Breath Oral Spray 9ml, £3.65
The Breath Co. Fresh Breath Dry Mouth Lozenges Mandarin Mint 72pc, £8.99