How to reduce bad breath

Most of us are aware when other people have bad breath (halitosis), but can be less conscious if we have it ourselves.  Bad breath is often a symptom of an underlying health issue, with something else going on in the mouth or gut. Most causes of bad breath can be found easily, and appropriate treatments are very effective. 

Finding an effective solution can be simple or, can require a bit of detective work. When it’s severe, bad breath can cause embarrassment, poor confidence and even social isolation.  We often do not know we have it until people start to show tell-tale behaviours of not wanting to get too close and can turn away. There is a tendency for people to not comment on the reason for their distancing, making it difficult for the person with bad breath to recognise they have this issue. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to control bad breath and treat its cause.

march a bad breath

How would I know if I have bad breath?

You may have a suspicion you have bad breath, based on other people’s behaviour, or just a sense that you do.  A yellow or white coating on the back of the tongue and a dry mouth are often cause for suspicion.  You could also have sensation of burning on your tongue and a foul, bitter taste in your mouth.  Your saliva could also be thick and viscous, rather than watery and have no real taste. 

What’s the cause for my bad breath?

Most cases of bad breath are caused by bacteria which produce sulphur. Though it’s important to know the source of halitosis, which is why it’s essential to have a thorough dental check to identify the cause. There may also be value in having a check-up with your doctor – the combination of professional expertise will help identify the reason and arrange a personalised treatment plan. Try to avoid feeling embarrassed, your healthcare professionals will be very keen to support you.

Common causes for bad breath are particular foods such as onion, garlic and ‘sulphur’ containing foods like eggs. Cigarettes, alcohol, dry mouth, poor oral hygiene and food build-up on the teeth are also culprits. Periodontal (gum) disease is a common cause for bad breath. This is where the gums are affected by plaque and bacteria which create toxins. Periodontal disease requires immediate dental treatment.

Some medical conditions such as diabetes and upper respiratory tract infections, including sinus infection, can also lead to bad breath. Gut or gastrointestinal conditions, reflux, constipation, and extreme dieting increases the likelihood of bad breath. 

What’s the treatment for bad breath?

The best treatment for bad breath depends on its cause. Careful tooth brushing at least twice/day, flossing, and brushing the tongue make a big difference.  Using an antibacterial toothpaste can help to control the growth of oral bacteria which contributes to bad breath. It’s also important to make an appointment with your dentist and speak with them about your tooth brushing technique.  Often, a little more guidance is needed to ensure tooth brushing and flossing is being done effectively.  Also check with your dentist about using other cleaning devices such as interproximal brushes, (small brushes which fit between the teeth), tongue scrapers and even antiseptic mouth rinses to help control bad breath.


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