What is it?
Bad breath is usually caused by bacteria in the mouth and is not a sign of general ill health. Sometimes, the smell comes from the nose.
Gum disease can cause bad breath. But you could still have bad breath with good oral hygiene and healthy teeth and gums. The smell then usually comes from the far back of the tongue. It gets stronger when you talk, as your mouth gets drier.
Most adults occasionally suffer from bad breath. Perhaps a quarter of adults suffer from bad breath regularly. If you are worried about bad breath, please talk to your dentist. Your dentist will:
Work out whether you really have a bad breath problem; and
Find out what sort of problem it is and help you deal with it.
What can my dentist do?
Make sure, before you see your dentist, that you have not done anything to hide the normal smell of your breath. Do not smoke, chew gum or use a mouth rinse, and avoid any sort of perfume. This will make it easier for your dentist to tell where any problem is coming from.
Your dentist might use a plastic spoon to gently scrape the back of your tongue and test the smell. There are also instruments which measure sulphur compounds in the mouth or swelling around the gums.
Good oral hygiene will usually be the answer to a bad-breath problem. A scale and polish from your dentist or hygienist makes it easier for you to keep your mouth clean at home.
What can I do myself?
Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
Use floss or other oral hygiene aids if your dentist or hygienist recommends them.
Gently brush your tongue if it is heavily coated.
You can check bad breath by smelling the floss after you have used it. If there is a smell from a particular part of the mouth, clean that area with special care.
A mouth will smell less if it is moist. Chewing sugar-free gum can help with bad breath by increasing the flow of saliva. You might have a dry mouth because you breathe with your mouth open or because you are taking certain medicines. Your mouth gets drier as you get older too.
If you smoke, try to give up. You should do this not just to make your breath smell better but to keep your mouth and gums healthy and to protect your general health as well.