Does your confidence take a dive every time you exhale? Bad breath affects all of us at some point, but one in four people suffers regularly. Here's why and what to do about it.
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Apologies if you’re squeamish, but while garlic and other strongly scented foods can create bad breath, the number one cause is bacteria breaking down leftover food particles and other mouth debris, such as blood cells. ‘As they do this, they release strongly scented sulphur gases that cause the odour,’ says Dr Anousheh Alavi, scientific affairs manager for Colgate.
Why we have an issue with bad breath is quite interesting. One of the most common causes of bad breath is gum disease, which can affect the support structures around teeth but is being linked to poor health in the body as a whole. The most important thing, says Dr Alavi, is to remember that you don’t have to suffer or isolate yourself. Something can be done.
As anyone chewing mints ‘just in case’ on their way to a big date or a job interview knows, one of the main problems with bad breath is actually knowing if you have it. While tech researchers in both Japan and the US are currently working on chips you can install in your smartphone that will test your breath for odour while you speak, right now there’s no definitive test that reveals if your breath smells okay or not.
‘You can cup your hands and exhale into them, then breathe in quickly through the nose, but it’s not foolproof,’ says Dr Alavi. ‘The only other option is to ask a trusted friend what they think. Or go and see your dentist, who can give you an honest and professional opinion.’
If you do know you have a problem, though, the solution may be in your bathroom cabinet – but don’t think that it’s mouthwash. ‘Minty products such as mouthwash can help disguise the symptoms, but if you want to eradicate bad breath, you need to tackle the cause,’ says Dr Alavi.
That means brushing your teeth twice a day. Some toothpastes contain ingredients specifically designed to tackle sulphur compounds, so perhaps switch to one of those if you’re particularly concerned. You also need to clean between the teeth once a day (be that with floss or, if you find this fiddly, try easy-to-use alternatives such as interdental brushes) and, finally, finish your routine by gently brushing your tongue – or using one of the tongue scrapers that are now often built into the back of toothbrushes. Lots of bacteria that produce bad breath live on the tongue surface.
If that doesn’t work, then your next trip should be to your dentist or hygienist for advice. If they can’t find anything, they might send you to your doctor. Sometimes issues further down in the digestive tract may be to blame for your symptoms.
Flossing Facts And Fibs:
Only about five per cent of the population flosses, possibly because we’re confused about how and when to do it. Dr Alavi tackles some myths.
FACT OR FIB? Flossing must be done at the same time as you brush your teeth.
FIB. ‘If you don’t have time to floss in the morning, then it’s okay to do it later in the day – even in front of the TV, if that works for you.’
FACT OR FIB? Any flossing is better than no flossing.
FACT. ‘While the more you floss the better, even just doing it once a week is better than nothing.’ If you’re specifically trying to tackle bad breath, though, do floss daily until the problem is resolved.
FACT OR FIB? If your gums bleed, you’re doing it wrong.
FIB. ‘The most common reason gums bleed as you floss is due to inflammation or gum disease in that area. It’s a sign you need to continue, not stop.’
FACT OR FIB? Mouthwash can replace flossing.
FIB. ‘The bacteria on teeth are very good at clinging on. Therefore, to remove them, you must scrape them off, which only floss or interdental brushes can do.’
Are You Too Worried?
There’s a condition called halitophobia where people are overly concerned about bad breath. Sufferers can clean their teeth ten or more times a day and may end up with damaged teeth because of it, as the brushing wears away the enamel. The solution is cognitive behavioural therapy to break the beliefs and habits.
Why Use Colgate Total?
Colgate Total Advanced offers complete protection for a healthy mouth and guards against the main oral-care problems. Clinically proven to provide non-stop, 12-hour protection against bacteria, it’s the number one toothpaste brand used by dentists.*
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*COLGATE PROFESSIONAL SURVEY, 300 DENTISTS, 2014