- Visit your dentist regularly.
- Have your teeth cleaned periodically by a dental professional.
- Floss or otherwise clean between your teeth.
- Choose unscented floss so that you can detect those areas between your teeth that give off odours, and clean them more carefully.
- Brush your teeth and gums properly.
- Ask your dentist to recommend a toothbrush or scraper for your tongue. Clean your tongue all the way back gently, but thoroughly.
- Drink plenty of liquids.
- Chew sugar-free gum for a minute or two at a time, especially if your mouth feels dry. Chewing parsley, mint, cloves or fennel seeds may also help.
- Clean your mouth after eating or drinking milk products, fish and meat.
- Dentures should be brushed daily using dishwashing liquid (what you use to clean knives and forks) and a soft brush. If there are stains or tartar on the dentures, have them professionally cleaned.
- If someone in your family or a close friend has bad breath, find a kind way to let her or him know.
- Ask your dentist to recommend a mouthwash that has been shown to be clinically effective in fighting bad breath, and use it just before going to sleep. There are none on the market that can be used for long periods of time, however.
- Eat fresh, fibrous vegetables such as carrots.
- Don't let your concern about having bad breath run your life. Don't be passive.
- Don't ignore your gums – you can lose your teeth as well as have a bad oral smell.
- Don't drink too much coffee – it may make the situation worse.
- Don't forget to clean behind the back teeth in each row.
- Don't brush your tongue with regular toothpaste; it's better to dip your toothbrush in mouthwash for tongue cleaning.
- Don't run to the gastroenterologist if you're concerned about bad breath. It usually comes from the mouth and seldom from the stomach.
- Don't give mouthwash to very young children as they can swallow it.
- Don't clean your tongue so hard that it hurts.
- Don't rely on mouthwash alone; practise complete oral hygiene.
Revised and reviewed by Professor Bill Evans, BDS Dip Orth(Witwatersrand). Orthodontist: South African Dental Association and Senior Specialist, Department of Orthodontics, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. February 2015.
Previously reviewed by Dr Jeff Michelson, South African Dental Association