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Bad Breath

Bad breath can leave several small signs. You may notice people stepping away from you when you talk or turn their cheeks when you try to kiss them goodbye.

If you suspect you have bad breath, you can try a simple test at home. Lick the inside of your wrist and sniff. If that spot has a bad smell, you likely have bad breath. You can also ask a friend who you are comfortable with, to be honest and tell you if you have bad breath.

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What can cause bad breath?

Bad breath is quite common and has many causes. Persistent bad breath often occurs from smelly gas released by bacteria on the tongue, gums and teeth. Food particles on the tongue and between the teeth will rot and may cause a bad smell. Food with a strong smell, like onions, coffee and garlic, can also contribute to bad breath. This makes brushing your teeth regularly and correctly important to keep your breath fresh.

The bacteria on the gums and teeth, called plaque, can also cause tooth decay and gum disease. A common warning sign of gum disease is always having a bad taste in your mouth or bad breath. Your dental team can identify and treat bad breath during regular dental check-ups. The earlier your bad breath diagnosis, the more effective treatment will be.

What factors cause bad breath?

Bad breath may also result from some medical condition. A dry mouth, also called xerostomia, makes the mouth produce less saliva, resulting in bacteria accumulation in the mouth and bad breath.

Some medications, continuously breathing through the mouth instead of the nose, and salivary gland problems can cause dry mouth. Older adults may also produce less saliva, a precursor for other issues.

If you have a dry mouth condition, your dental professional may prescribe or recommend an artificial saliva product or suggest other ways to tackle dry mouth.

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Can other medical problems cause bad breath?

Many medical conditions can cause bad breath. They include lung infections, nose or throat infections – bronchitis, sinusitis, diabetes, and kidney or liver problems. If your dentist checks your mouth and finds it healthy, you may need to see your family GP or another healthcare provider to determine what is causing your bad breath.

Can smoking cause bad breath?

Yes, smoking can cause bad breath. Tobacco causes a unique type of bad breath, and the only way to stop this bad breath is to quit smoking. Besides causing bad breath, smoking can stain the teeth, cause loss of taste and irritate the gums. 

Smokers are more likely to develop heart disease, lung and mouth cancer. You can consult your healthcare provider, pharmacist or dentist to help you to stop smoking. If you stop smoking and still have bad breath, visit your dental professional or doctor.

How can my dentist help?

If you have bad breath, you need to start a routine to keep your mouth clean and breath fresh. Regular dental check-ups will help check for areas in your mouth with plaque, like between the teeth. Your dental professional can clean difficult-to-reach areas in your mouth and will also show you how to clean your gums and teeth, including areas you may be neglecting.

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Can I prevent bad breath?

You can keep your breath fresh by preventing gum disease and keeping your mouth fresh and clean. If you have bad breath, keep track of all the foods you eat and list your medications. Take the record to your dentist to help them suggest ways to manage and treat your bad breath.

  • Brush your gums and teeth before going to bed, and use fluoride toothpaste at least once during the day
  • Always brush your tongue or use a tongue scrapper
  • Reduce your intake of sugary drinks and food
  • Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend
  • Use interdental brushes or floss to clean your teeth at least once daily – only brushing cleans about 60% of your teeth surface. You can also buy other products to clean between your teeth
  • Chew sugar-free gum to help your mouth produce saliva and prevent dry mouth, which may cause bad breath
  • Use a mouthwash – some mouthwashes contain antibacterial agents that can kill bacteria and keep your breath fresh

If you still have bad breath, visit your dentist to ensure your mouthwash isn’t covering a serious underlying issue.

Can mouthwash stop bad breath?

You shouldn’t use mouthwash to cover your bad breath. If you are always using mouthwash to prevent a bad smell, consult your dentist. Some mouthwashes are primarily made to prevent gum disease and bad breath. They may contain chlorhexidine which is suitable for gum disease but can cause tooth staining if used for an extended period. Ensure you read the manufacturer’s instructions or ask your provider how to use them.

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How can I prevent bad breath with dentures?

Cleaning your dentures is as important as cleaning your natural teeth. Food particles can get stuck around your denture’s clasps and edges and rot in these areas if you don’t clean them properly.

Ensure you have a separate toothbrush for cleaning your dentures. The general rule for cleaning dentures is to brush, soak and brush again. You can clean your dentures over a water bowl to prevent breaking if you mistakenly drop them. Always brush your dentures before soaking them to remove any food particles.

Soak your dentures in the recommended cleaning solution for a short while, then brush them again, like you brush your natural teeth.

Carefully clean all surfaces of the dentures, including the surfaces that sit against your gums. If the dentures are stained or with scale, you should take them to your dental team for cleaning. Our dental professionals recommend using a small to medium-head toothbrush or a denture brush.

How can I tell someone that they have bad breath?

It is common for someone you know to have bad breath, but most people aren’t brave enough to discuss this issue because it is a delicate subject. Someone with bad breath can easily feel embarrassed or offended and not speak to you again if you tell them they have bad breath.

However, bad breath can result from several causes. When someone knows they have bad breath, they can identify its cause and handle it. You may consider taking it to their family member or partner as they may already be undergoing treatment for the cause of the bad breath.

If you have bad breath and need to see a dentist in London, visit McKennell Dental Practice London or call 020 7834 8802 to schedule an appointment.  

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