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Bad breath – would even your best friend tell you?

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It people have been avoiding you lately, could it be due to the dreaded bad breath? But don’t worry – there’s lots you can do to sort out the problem.

We happened to be reading a magazine in the surgery recently and there was an article about friendship. And in the fashion of many of these populist magazines, it included a quiz which set out to establish how good a friend you are.

One of the questions really jumped off the page at us. It asked you to imagine that one of your friends was suffering from bad breath – but didn’t know about it. You were asked if you’d tell him straight out, leave an anonymous note on his desk, or simply ignore it.

Why the article was of such interest to us was because it summed up brilliantly the extent to which bad breath is still one of the great social stigma of our times. Be honest, if you had a workmate who stank the place out, would you have the courage to say it straight out – or would you just grin and hear it and hope he got promoted to another job?

The bottom line is that very few of us who suffer from bad breath actually know about it – simply because people are too embarrassed to tell us. That being the case, why not assume you might potentially have the problem – then see what you can do to get rid of it.

What exactly is bad breath?

The technical term for bad breath is halitosis, and if you’ve been in your local chemist’s recently, you may well have seen a number of products on the shelves aimed at remedying the condition.

One of the most common cause of bad breath is poor dental hygiene – but happily, tis is definitely something we can address pretty quickly. But there are a whole host of other contributors – including a range of medical conditions – that can cause bad breath even if you brush and floss regularly.

Another obvious cause of bad breath is the type of substances you put into your mouth. Tobacco, for example, is not exactly going to leave your breath smelling super-sweet. And neither will spicy or very aromatic foods such as garlic make you flavor of the month with your friends or workmates.

What’s the link between food and bad breath?

To answer this question, we have to get into ‘science mode’. Every piece of food that you eat starts the digestion process as soon as it passes your lips. In other words, the process of breaking down the food starts in the mouth, before it passes into your digestive system and into the bloodstream.

The blood then makes its way to the lungs, and this is why your breath may be a giveaway as to what you’ve been eating. Brushing or using a mouthwash will only mask the odour – it won’t fully disappear until the food has completely left your system.

The bottom line is that if a certain type of food is causing bad breath, you have two choices. Either give up that foodstuff – or accept the consequences of eating it.

So why bother brushing?

It’s very simple. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, tiny food particles will get stuck between your teeth and will start to rot, providing the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and multiply.

This can ne the cause of your bad breath – or it could make an existing condition far worse. It really is critical that you don’t let up on your regular daily routine – and make sure that you also choose an anti-bacterial mouthwash for a bit of extra protection.

And if you’re a denture wearer, don’t forget that you still need to clean your dentures thoroughly every night. Also, if you have had a treatment such as a dental bridge, for example, make sure you pay special attention to cleaning around it – making sure that nothing is hiding in behind it.

Brushing alone around a tooth bridge or braces is unlikely to work fully, so remember to use either floss or interdental brushes to get at those hard-to-reach places.

Are you a smoker?

The extent to which smoking can affect your breath is so immense that our simple advice is this – quit smoking. We know it’s harsh, but here’s some great material to start you off from the World Dental Federation on the impact of smoking http://www.fdiworldental.org/oral-health/tobacco/serious-risks-to-healthoral-health.aspx