Are you heading for halitosis hell? Don’t forget your toothbrush


We all hate bad breath. Whether it’s our own or smelling somebody else’s, it’s something we could all do without. Around one in four people are thought to suffer with bad breath but not many know what causes it – or how to get rid of it.   

Most of the time, bad breath – also known as halitosis – is the result of poor oral hygiene. When bacteria build up in our mouth, the toxins produced let off a bad-smelling gas. According to dental experts, persistent bad breath can also be a sign of gum disease or the result of excessive drinking and smoking.

But bad breath usually indicates that there is something we could be doing better. Research shows a worrying 42% of us use only a toothbrush and toothpaste for our oral care – while one in four of us admit we don’t even brush our teeth twice a day!

But what about the surfaces of our teeth we can’t see? Interdental cleaning between our teeth is vital – and particularly important in tackling bad breath.

Bacteria break down any food trapped on or in between our teeth and release gases – so removing this with small interdental brushes is an effective fix. Brushing only cleans around 60% of the tooth’s surface – which shows just how important reaching those nooks and crannies can be to our oral health.

Cleaning our tongue is another step most of us seemingly skip during our oral health regime. Tongue scraping dates back many centuries but few of us bother.

In the US, it is factored into the oral hygiene appointment and is regularly marketed as a solution for those patients with halitosis concerns.

Indeed, it is estimated that approximately 85% of all halitosis cases have their origin within the mouth, with 50% being caused by tongue residues, so tongue scraping is key to keeping that bad breath at bay.

Investing in a good electric toothbrush can also make cleaning more effective. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three to four months (or after any bout of illness) and should have soft synthetic bristles.

Another step towards fresher breath is cutting down – or quitting – drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco. When we consume alcohol, it dehydrates us and leads to a reduction in saliva production. Another top tip is chewing sugarfree gum after eating foods and drinking coffee as it can stimulate the flow of saliva and clear away food particles.

Cutting down on sugary foods and drink is another solution. Acidic products create the perfect environment for bacteria to multiply. Munching on raw vegetables also helps to stimulate saliva production and scrape away plaque on teeth. Believe it or not, aromatic spices also act as a great cure.

An annual check up with the dentist really is important – and an appointment with the hygienist equally so. Not only will she help reduce the chances of halitosis, but you’ll also leave the surgery feeling like you’ve been given a new set of sparkly, clean teeth.

But sometimes, bad breath can go beyond oral hygiene. Gastrointestinal problems, such as a pylori infection, can also be a cause and treatment will depend on what time of condition you have. Your dentist will be able to advise.

But, ordinarily, by sticking to our regular and effective oral hygiene habits, swapping fizzy drinks for water and adopting a healthier and more balanced diet, we can all be one step closer to waving goodbye to bad breath forever.

And, next time you think about cutting short your morning brush, remember you may be paving the way for halitosis hell.

Article updated on 28th January 2021.

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