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Dr Fareed Amod – How fresh is your breath?

Updated: Jan 21, 2022

Horace Jackson Brown Jr. an American author best known for his inspirational book, Life’s Little Instruction Book, which was a New York Times bestseller, says, ‘If someone offers you a breath mint, accept it." This may be a polite way of saying that your breath needs some attention.

Bad breath, medically known as halitosis, happens when a noticeable unpleasant breath odour is present. Bad breath can result from poor dental habits or could be a sign of other health problems. In addition, bad breath can be made worse by some of the foods that you eat and/or other unhealthy practices. You can take measures to prevent and treat halitosis at home as well as with the help of your dentist or doctor.

Health Problems

The primary way to recognise a bad breath problem is in the smell. You may notice the bad odour yourself, or someone you know may tell you. However, you may not realise that continual bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth may be a warning sign of cavities, gum (periodontal) disease or dental abscesses. Other symptoms that may be associated with bad breath are sore gums, bleeding or swollen gums and toothache.

Bad breath may also be caused by badly fitting dental appliances and yeast infections of the mouth. A dry mouth can cause bad breath. Saliva is necessary to moisten the mouth, neutralise acids produced by plaque, and wash away dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. If not removed, these cells decompose and can cause bad breath. Dry mouth may also be a side effect of various medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous breathing through the mouth.

Other diseases and illnesses that can cause bad breath, include:

· Seasonal allergies

· Respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia or bronchitis

· Long-term (chronic) sinus infections

· Postnasal drip

· Diabetes

· Chronic acid reflux

· Gastrointestinal issues

· Chronic lung infection

· Liver or kidney problems

Stress, excessive dieting, snoring and hormonal changes can also affect your breath.

Food and Breath

The food you eat starts to be broken down in your mouth. As the food particles are absorbed into your bloodstream, they move to the lungs, affecting the air you exhale. If you eat foods with strong odours such as garlic or onions, brushing and flossing – even mouthwash – only covers up the odour. The odour will not disappear until the food has passed through your body’s digestive system. Other foods that can cause bad breath include cheese, certain spices, orange juice or soda, alcohol, and coffee.

Poor Habits Cause Bad Breath

In order to promote fresh breath, you need to brush and floss teeth daily with a fluoride toothpaste. Food particles can remain in your mouth, promoting bacterial and plaque growth on and between teeth, around the gums, and on the tongue, which causes an odour. If you can’t brush after a meal, give your mouth a good rinse with water to loosen up the trapped food bits. It’s important to use floss or an interdental cleaner to remove food particles and plaque between teeth once a day. Rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash twice a day may further assist to remove any bacteria present.

Bacteria and food particles can also cause bad breath if dentures are not properly cleaned. Dentures should be removed at night and cleaned thoroughly before being placed in your mouth the next morning. In addition, braces and retainers should be cleaned as directed. Furthermore, smoking or chewing tobacco-based products can cause bad breath, stain teeth, irritate your gums as well as reduce your ability to taste foods.

From a dietary view, drink lots of water which will keep your mouth moist. Chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless candy also stimulates the production of saliva that helps wash away food particles and bacteria. Eating more fruits and vegetables and less meat will help keep your teeth cleaner. Adding a probiotic or a daily cup of yogurt to your health routine will also promote gut health, which can affect your breath.

Professional Care

Visit your dentist regularly, at least twice a year, for an oral exam and professional teeth cleaning. They will be able to find problems that may cause bad breath and advise on treatment options for fresher breath. You make consider keeping a log of the foods you eat for your dentist to review. Similarly, make a list of the medications you take as these may create mouth odours.

However, book an appointment as soon as possible if:

· Your bad breath has been persistent and has lasted more than a few days

· The odour is quite noticeable or concerning

· You have pain in your mouth, bleeding, or sore gums

Crown Dental Studio is one of the few truly 24-hour dental practises in Durban as this is not limited to emergency dentistry treatment.

T: +27 (0)81 207 8621


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