Do you have bad breath? Here's some good news

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Almost everyone is aware of their 'morning breath'. Sometimes, however, bad breath is a little more serious – but there are ways to combat it, according to these experts.
Almost everyone is aware of their 'morning breath'. Sometimes, however, bad breath is a little more serious – but there are ways to combat it, according to these experts.
Layla Bird/Getty

Gum disease is the most prevalent disease after the the common cold, according to the health department, with about 90% of South Africans experiencing the problem at some point. 

This National Oral Health Month, we explore bad breath.

There are a lot of different products on the market promising to help you do away with halitosis, which is commonly known as bad breath. What you might not know is that these products many not necessarily work because in many cases, halitosis is a result of some of your daily habits or in some cases a medical condition you might have.


Jan Zonnestein and Associates based in the Western Cape say bad breath is a very common problem and there are many different causes.

“Persistent bad breath is usually caused by the smelly gases released by the bacteria that coat your teeth and gums. Little bits of food that get left between the teeth and on the tongue are likely to rot and can sometimes cause an unpleasant smell in your mouth. So, correct and regular brushing is very important to keep your breath smelling fresh,” reads their website.

Medical conditions that cause bad breath include infections in the throat, nose or lungs, sinusitis, bronchitis, diabetes or liver and kidney problems.


Other causes of halitosis include foods such as coffee, garlic and onions. Tobacco also causes its own form of bad breath.

The only solution is to stop smoking. Besides making your breath smell, smoking stains your teeth, causes loss of taste and irritates the gums.

People who smoke are more likely to suffer from gum disease and also have a greater risk of developing cancer of the mouth, lung cancer and heart disease.

According to Dr Jean van Lierop of Hout Bay Dental Studio in Cape Town, other causes of bad breath could be as a result of dry mouth, which is a condition called xerostomia that affects the flow of saliva.

Dry mouth causes bacteria to build up in your mouth and this leads to bad breath. Dry mouth may be caused by some medicines, salivary gland problems or by continually breathing through your mouth instead of the nose.

Read more | 3 ways interdental cleaning can give you a brighter smile this Oral Health Month 

If you suffer from dry mouth, your dentist may recommend or prescribe an artificial saliva product or suggest other ways of dealing with the problem.

Jan Zonnestein and Associates say, “Most mouthwashes only disguise bad breath for a short time. So if you find that you are using a mouthwash all the time, talk to your dentist. Some mouthwashes that are recommended for gum disease can cause tooth staining if you use them for a long time.”CHRONIC BAD BREATH

Dr Jean says there are cases where bad breath isn’t remedied by regular dental hygiene and it might mean you have chronic bad breath.

“If you have chronic bad breath, it is really important to consult a dental specialist to make sure you do not have gum disease. Having bad breath is one of the signs that you have gum disease, which is caused by bacteria or plaque that is present on your teeth and around the gums. The best way to prevent this is with good routine dental hygiene with brushing and flossing effectively,” he says.

He adds that if chronic bad breath is not treated, the health of your mouth could affect the health of your whole body.

“More and more evidence shows a strong association between gum disease and heart disease, stroke, diabetes, poor pregnancy outcomes and other conditions. Some early research has even found a higher risk for certain cancers,” says Dr Jean.Read more | 'My man has terrible breath, what do I do?'


  • Brush your teeth and gums for two minutes twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Don’t forget to brush your tongue.
  • Cut down on sugary food and drinks.
  • Visit your dentist regularly as often as they recommend.
  • Floss your teeth, brushing alone only cleans up to about 60 per cent of the surface of your teeth. There are other products you can buy to clean between your teeth and they are called interdental brushes.
  • Use a mouthwash. Some contain antibacterial agents that could kill bacteria that make your breath smell unpleasant. If you continue to suffer from bad breath, visit your dentist or hygienist to make sure the mouthwash is not masking a more serious underlying problem.
  • Chew sugar-free gum as it stimulates saliva and stops your from mouth drying out. A dry mouth can lead to bad breath.

Dr Jean says, “Good dental hygiene with brushing and flossing effectively is still the most important way to look after your teeth and gums. An oral hygienist is a great help and should form part of your yearly dental visits. They not only help prevent the development of gum problems, but most importantly teaches you how to be more effective in your brushing and taking care of your teeth.”

*This article was originally published in the print edition of Move magazine on 28 March 2018.

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