Bad breath begone

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Puckering up for a kiss? Make sure your breath is minty fresh!

Kissing is one of life’s ultimate pleasures. But oops, what if your breath is less than sparkling? Getting a second date when you brandish death breath on the first one is unlikely.

Garlic, booze and food can create a pungent potpourri that can stun a dentist at 40 paces. Either way, your love life will suffer. Let’s find out how we can banish the bad breath. 

Bad breath culprits 
The causes of halitosis are actually fairly simple, says Cape Town aesthetic dentist Dr Ilona Visser: “Bad breath can be traced to microbes in the mouth, especially at the back of the tongue, where the surface of the tongue is extremely rough, as well as to the areas between your teeth.”

Dead and dying bacteria release an evil-smelling sulphur compound, and together with the odour of rotting food debris, can result in a bacterial bouquet that's potent and distinctive, she explains.

Bad breath can also be the result of a throat infection, or a sign of gum disease. This is caused by plaque, the colourless, sticky film of bacteria that builds up on your teeth daily. The bacteria produce toxins that irritate the gums, causing gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis eventually damages the bone supporting the teeth, resulting in periodontitis or formation of spaces between the gums and the teeth.

Fight the foul funk 
Here’s a good rule of thumb: looking in a mirror, press gently against a bit of your gum between your teeth with a fingernail. The pressure will make the gum turn from pink to white as the blood is pushed out of the tissue. When you remove your fingernail the gum should immediately turn pink again.

If it stays pale, or if a bit of blood or yellow pus appears between tooth and gum, your gums aren’t as healthy as they should be. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, you should also be concerned, says Dr Visser.

She recommends gargling and rinsing your mouth out thoroughly with salty water. Combat bad breath by brushing and flossing morning and night.

If you suffer from persistent bad breath it may be the result of a medical problem not related to your mouth. Bad breath can also be the result of sinus trouble, lung infections or diabetes. If regular brushing doesn’t help speak to your dentist.

Dos and don’ts  

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • False teeth should be brushed daily using dishwashing liquid (the same that you use to clean knives and forks) and a soft brush. If there are stains or tartar on the dentures, have them professionally cleaned.
  • Ask your dentist to recommend a mouthwash that has been shown to be clinically effective in fighting bad breath. 
  • Eat fresh, fibrous vegetables like carrots.
  • Don't ignore your gums - you can lose your teeth as well as smell bad.
  • 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 for concerns of having 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; you need complete oral care!
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