Bad breath is a very common problem and there are many different causes.
Persistent bad breath is usually caused by the smelly gases released by the bacteria that coat your teeth and gums.
Bits of food that get caught between the teeth and on the tongue will decay and can sometimes cause an unpleasant smell. So correct and regular brushing is very important to keep your breath smelling fresh.
However, strong foods like garlic, coffee and onions can add to the problem.
The bacteria on our teeth and gums (plaque) also cause gum disease and dental decay. One of the warning signs of gum disease is that you always have bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth. Again, your dentist or hygienist will be able to see and treat the problem during your regular check-ups. The earlier the problems are found, the more effective the treatment will be.
Bad breath can also be caused by some medical problems. Dry mouth (xerostomia) is a condition that affects the flow of saliva. This causes bacteria to build up in the mouth and this leads to bad breath. Dry mouth may be caused by some medicines, salivary gland problems or by continually breathing through the mouth instead of the nose. Older people may produce less saliva, causing further problems.
If you suffer from dry mouth, your dentist may be able to recommend or prescribe an artificial saliva product. Or your dentist may be able to suggest other ways of dealing with the problem.
How can I tell if I have bad breath?
Lots of small signals can show that you have bad breath. Have you noticed people stepping away when you start to talk? Do people turn their cheek when you kiss them goodbye?
If you think you might have bad breath, there is a simple test that you can do. Simply lick the inside of your wrist and sniff – if the smell is bad, you can be pretty sure that your breath is too.
Or, ask a very good friend to be absolutely honest, but do make sure they are a true friend.
To keep your breath fresh, you must get rid of any gum disease and tooth decay, and keep your mouth clean and fresh. If you do have bad breath, try keeping a diary of all the foods you eat and list any medicines you are taking. Take this diary to your dentist who may be able to suggest ways to solve the problem.