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.
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.
Can I prevent bad breath?
To keep your breath fresh, you must get rid of any gum disease and tooth decay, and keep your mouth clean and fresh.
Brush your teeth and gums for two minutes, twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Children up to three years old should use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000ppm (parts per million). Three-year-olds to adults should use a toothpaste that contains 1350ppm to 1500ppm of fluoride. Don’t forget to clean your tongue as well.
Use mouthwash – some contain antibacterial agents that could kill bacteria that make your breath smell unpleasant. If you continue to suffer from bad breath visit your dentist or hygienist to make sure that the mouthwash is not masking a more serious underlying problem.
Regularly visit your dentist, as often as they recommend.
Floss your teeth – brushing alone only cleans up to about 60 percent of the surface of your teeth. There are other products you can buy to clean between your teeth (they are called ‘interdental brushes’).
Cut down on how often you have sugary food and drinks.
Chew sugar-free gum – it stimulates saliva and stops your mouth drying out. A dry mouth can lead to bad breath.
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