What causes bad breath?
Bad breath (also known as halitosis) can be an embarrassing problem, but it’s a really common one too. More often than not, the culprit is a group of bacteria that hang around your mouth and feast on leftover food and plaque. These bacteria break down proteins in your food. During the breakdown process, they release sulphurous gases. It’s a completely natural process, but unfortunately, it can often result in pretty pungent breath. The good news is that a case of horrible halitosis can normally be fixed with a few simple steps. Here are six easy ways to banish bad breath for good.
- Keep brushing
A good brushing and flossing regimen doesn’t just help to keep your mouth and gums healthy and your teeth pearly white. Dental hygiene is also crucial for keeping nasty mouth odours at bay. Plaque build-up and trapped food are breeding grounds for sulphur-producing bacteria. That’s why it’s important to brush your teeth regularly to sweep away plaque and debris before bacteria have a chance to feast. Use dental floss to clean those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies too.
We recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing once daily. Afterwards, try rinsing with a mouthwash containing chlorine dioxide or sodium for extra antibacterial protection. Just make sure the mouthwash you're using is alcohol-free so that it doesn't dry your mouth out.
- Don’t neglect your tongue
It’s normal for a white coating to form on your tongue every now and again, but this thin layer of mucus can be a host for lots of smelly bacteria. Regular brushing won’t normally remove the build-up either, so it’s best to add in some gentle tongue scraping to your dental regimen. After brushing your teeth, add a little toothpaste and carefully brush from the back of your tongue forward. You can use either your normal toothbrush (if it’s comfortable) or a specially designed tongue scraper. This is best done in the morning, as the bacteria on your tongue and mouth will have multiplied during the night.
- Drink up
Saliva is your body’s natural defence against tooth decay and bad breath. It helps keep bacteria at bay, and washes away food that might otherwise become lodged in the mouth. But when you’re dehydrated, you don’t produce as much saliva. That’s why it’s important to keep your hydration levels topped up throughout the day.
Keep drinking water, but try to avoid diuretics such as coffee and alcohol and sugary sodas and juices. Chewing gum can help too – it can make your body think you’re eating, so it produces more saliva.
Talk to your doctor if you’re suffering from excessive or prolonged dry mouth, as this can be a result of medication or another health condition.
- Watch what you eat
Certain foods can contribute to a horrible case of halitosis. Onion and garlic are common culprits. Although tasty, eating these foods produces a sticky, smelly, sulphur-based compound called allyl methyl sulphide. Unfortunately, brushing your teeth at bedtime, hours after you've eaten, won’t help you here. That’s because allyl methyl sulphide is produced in the gut, not the mouth. Plus, unlike other compounds, it isn’t metabolised quickly, and so it tends to linger around. If you can, brush your teeth right away after eating a garlicky meal or a dish with onions. Alternatively, pop in some minty gum to get your saliva flowing.
Fish, meat and dairy products may be contributing to your bad breath too. These foods are high in protein, and remember that bacteria in the mouth let off sulphur gases when they break protein down. Again, brush your teeth or chew some gum immediately after eating protein-rich foods. If you don’t have access to a toothbrush, washing your meal down with plenty of water can help too.
- Quit smoking
You probably already know that smoking isn’t good for your health, but it isn't good for your breath either. As well as staining your teeth and damaging your gums, nicotine can cause gum disease and a dry mouth – both of which contribute to funky breath. Quitting nicotine can be extremely tough so if you need a little help, make an appointment with your dentist and doctor. They can talk to you about the different programs, techniques and prescription medications available to help you kick your smoking habit for good.
- Check in with your dentist
Bad breath can be an embarrassing problem but more than that, it can also be a sign that your mouth or gums aren’t quite as healthy as they should be. If you’re troubled by persistent bad breath, it’s best to make an appointment with your dentist to rule out underlying dental health problems such as tooth decay or gum disease. Plus, your dentist can also deep-clean your teeth and gums for you, removing bacteria and plaque in all those hard-to-reach places that your regular at-home clean might miss.
Staying up-to-date with your dentist appointments throughout the year will keep you on top of your dental hygiene and help keep bad breath at bay. Book an appointment with Sleep Dentistry Melbourne online or give us a call on 1800 235 923.