Bad breath or ‘halitosis’ is relatively common. It’s caused by a group of bacteria that live in your mouth.

These bacteria commonly feed on protein which is found in the meat, fish and dairy products that you eat. As the bacteria break down the protein, they release a waste product, sulphur, which causes bad breath. The more these bacteria multiply and feed, the worse your breath will smell.

Sounds pretty disgusting, right?

Don’t worry, it’s totally normal and these naturally-occurring bacteria are actually important for digestion. Although you can never fully get rid of them, here are six ways you can try to help beat bad breath:

  1. Brushing and flossing

    Good dental hygiene is one of the main ways you can limit bad breath. It’s really important to floss daily and to brush your teeth twice a day.

    Regular brushing and flossing can help remove trapped food that the odour-producing bacteria like to feed on, and it can also reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth.

    It can also be helpful to use a mouthwash. However, be careful not to use a mouthwash which contains alcohol, as this can make your mouth dry, potentially worsening your bad breath. Instead, use a mouthwash which contains oxygenated products such as chlorine dioxide or sodium chloride.

  2. Clean your tongue regularly

    Your tongue can also harbour lots of bad breath-causing bacteria and food traces under a thin layer of mucus (white coating), which normal brushing and flossing will not get rid of. So after brushing your teeth, try cleaning your tongue once a day, especially in the morning when the bacteria have been multiplying whilst you slept.

    You can either use your toothbrush with a small amount of tooth paste and gently brush from the back of your tongue forward, or try a custom-designed tongue scrapper, which are available from most supermarkets or chemists. Just be careful not to apply too much pressure as this can damage your tongue.

  3. Go to the dentist

    Bad breath can also be caused by tooth decay and gum disease. So it’s important to have regular check-ups with your dentist who can check for decay and gum disease and treat it. Your dentist will also be able to give your teeth and gums a deeper clean, removing plaque and bacteria in hard to reach places that at-home tooth brushing and flossing often miss.

  4. Keep your mouth hydrated

    Having a dry mouth, which becomes more common as we age, can make your breath smell as saliva helps wash away food particles and odour-causing bacteria in your mouth.

    To help keep your mouth hydrated, drink plenty of water throughout the day. When you become dehydrated your body tries to conserve water by slowing down the production of saliva. It can also be helpful to chew sugar-free gum, which can trick your body in to thinking you’re eating, which will stimulate saliva production. If your dry mouth persists, it’s important to speak to your dentist or doctor.

    Alcohol and coffee have a diuretic effect, slowing down the production of saliva and creating a great environment in your mouth for odour-producing bacteria to live and feed. So it’s important to make sure you drink plenty of water to help combat the diuretic effects of these beverages. Make sure you give your teeth and tongue a good scrub before popping in to bed each night and when you get up the next day, especially after a night of drinking.

    Dry mouth can also be caused by certain medications and some long-term health conditions, such as diabetes and Parkinson’s. If you’re experiencing dry mouth, it’s important to speak to your doctor and or dentist who will be able to help.

  5. Eat healthy foods

    Although found in most recipes, onion and garlic can cause bad breath. That’s because they contain a sulphur-based compound called ‘allyl methyl sulphide’, which mirrors the effect of bad breath. This compound can be ‘sticky’, causing it to linger for longer in your mouth. So after eating a garlicy or oniony meal make sure to brush your teeth or chew some gum.

    Foods that are high in protein, such as fish, meat and dairy products, can also affect your breath as the odour-producing bacteria in your mouth breakdown the protein. It’s a good idea to wash these foods down with plenty of water, or brush your teeth or chew gum after your meal.

  6. Quit smoking

    Smoking can cause dry mouth and gum disease amongst other issues. If you smoke, talk to your dentist and doctor about quitting. They will be able to talk you through the different techniques and options open to you and also support you along the way.

Bad breath is something most of us will experience from time to time but by following the above six tips you can help beat it. If, however, your bad breath is not going away or it’s getting worse, it’s important to speak to your dentist who will be able to help.