I’ve never been told that I have bad breath, but I decided I didn’t want to wait until people told me to make sure I don’t have a problem with my breath. The biggest advantage of working to improve the chances of my breath not smelling is the improvement of my dental health, because bad dental health is one of the biggest causes of bad breath. I would avoid using things like breath mints, as they only mask the problem temporarily, and don’t fix the underlying cause, although they can be useful for emergencies. Here’s some of the things I’ve been doing to improve the situation:
Cleaning my teeth twice a day
I’m ashamed to admit that a few years ago I would often only brush my teeth once a day. Generally I’d brush them in the morning and before going out. This was not enough. However, after a breakup about four years ago, one of the things I set out to do was to make brushing my teeth a twice-a-day habit. Previously, in an evening, I would go into the bathroom late at night, and collapse in the bed, and then not want to get back up again, so my dental health suffered from my laziness. Now, I have slowly made it a routine of heading to the bathroom before going to bed, and using the toilet and then cleaning my teeth. By making this into a habit and a routine it has become almost second nature, and my teeth are all the better for it.
However this is not enough.
I’d always read that flossing was important, but it had always seemed like an effort, especially with traditional dental floss making it hard to reach the back teeth. This was until I discovered dental floss picks.
These are very cheap to buy, with 20 costing me €1.50, although they do come in larger quantities available online, which should be cheaper. By using the dental floss picks to floss between each tooth, you can help remove all the tiny fragments of food that have become stuck there. You might not have realised how much food can remain in your mouth after you’ve finished eating, but all this material is food for the bacteria that makes your mouth smell. In addition, the food particles will rot, causing additional smells and causing gum inflammation. If your gums bleed at all when you brush them, this is the cause. You should aim to floss daily; I have been doing it in the morning, but I think I will aim to add it to my night time routine to prevent food staying over night. I’ve been shocked at the smell of the picks after I’ve finished, so it must be doing something to help and leads on to my next section:
Mouth washes can help dislodge food particles and help kill off the bacteria that cause plaque. However, many of the mouthwashes available on the shelves cause more problems than they solve. This is because they contain alcohol or ethanol, to give them a “kick” to the taste, but, while this might kill off some bacteria, it ends up drying out your mouth, creating a better environment for bacteria to grow, and if they contain sugar to make them taste better, they’re just providing extra food for the bacteria.
You should look for a mouth wash that contains chlorhexidine digluconate, like Corsodyl. This is normally used for treating infections in the mouth and isn’t recommended for day to day usage, especially as it can stain your teeth. This might be a good option if you have a serious problem with inflamed and infected gums to get the problem under control, but I wouldn’t recommend you used it long term . However, Corsodyl does produce a lower dose mouthwash called Corsodyl Daily, which doesn’t contain alcohol.
Any staining that does occur can be removed with brushing, and reduced by not eating food with tannins, like tea, coffee or red wine for at least an hour after using the mouth wash. The other thing to know is that most toothpastes use an ingredient called Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, which stops chlorhexidine digluconate from working correctly, so wait at least 5 minutes after brushing your teeth and rinse thoroughly with water before you use the mouthwash.
The surface of your tongue is a perfect location for bacteria to breed, with many pockets for them to be trapped in. Your tongue can be one of the biggest sources of bad smells in your mouth. The front of your tongue tends to be cleaner from the contact with your teeth, but the back is harder to keep clean. This is where tongue cleaners or scrapers can help. They allow you to brush and scrap all the dead cells, food particles and bacteria that’s become trapped in the surface, which will be causing the smell. One problem you will encounter when using a tongue cleaner is invoking your gag reflex. The best solution to this is finding a cleaner with the lowest profile you can find, and relaxing your tongue. You should also find that you become more used to the sensation after a few weeks of use. You should also attempt to avoid touching the roof of your mouth, which will trigger your gag reflex more. Your gag reflex is one of the reasons why using a tooth brush is not very effective, as they are generally far too tall to reach very far back into your mouth.
Additionally, reducing the number of bacteria on your tongue will help prevent them spreading to your teeth and gums where they can cause inflammation.
Being hydrated makes it easier for the body to produce saliva, which has an antimicrobial function, which helps cut down on the number of bacteria in your mouth. This is one of the reasons you get “morning breath” as you don’t produce very much saliva while you’re asleep and bacteria can flourish.
You can also use water to rinse your mouth out after eating and drinking, to help you dislodge any food particles that may have become trapped in your gums or between your teeth, before they become a bigger problem.
I’ve been trying to increase my water intake for other reasons, but this is just another reason to keep trying. I may start making sure I have a glass of water with me when I go to bed too.
Visiting my dentist
You should visit your dentist regularly. I’d visit mine twice a year if I could, but my dentist told me every nine months. They will be able to spot any dental health problems that could be causing your bad breath problems. Any cavities could fill with food, which will become trapped and rot away. They can also point out any areas you need to pay special attention to with brushing and flossing. They can also help remove any plaque or tartar, which has built up on your teeth, and give your teeth a polish. Just generally having good dental health will help improve the situation, as well as giving you a smile you can be proud of, which will help your confidence.
Other causes of bad breath
There are some causes of bad breath, which are not related to your mouth. These can include your diet and medical conditions. Some diets, like very low carb intakes, are known to cause bad breath. This is because when you eat under 20-100g of carbohydrates a day, your body enters a state known as ketosis, where it uses ketones from fat as fuel, and a by-product of this is acetone, which is expelled through the breath. In some cases, the smell is a result of a problem in the lungs or gastrointestinal tract, or to a systemic infection. If you still have problems after you’ve used these methods, you should talk to your doctor to rule out other health problems.
Hopefully, with these steps, your breath will be one less thing to worry about, and boost your confidence in social situations.