Freshening up: How to avoid bad breath

Lisa Goudy
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No one wants to sit next to someone with bad breath. Certainly no one wants to be the person with that funny odour in their mouth.

Dr. Mike Prestie, a dentist with Ominica Dental Group,  pauses for a break between patients in the office on July 21, 2014.

There are many causes of bad breath and many ways to combat it. Dr. Mike Prestie, a dentist with Ominica Dental Group, said some of those causes include poor oral hygiene, infected teeth or gums, acid reflux and infected tonsils. Sometimes, when a person has a cold, the bacteria in the throat or lungs can result in bad breath.

“From the dental point of view, it’s largely to do with how clean your mouth is and how good of shape your teeth are in,” said Prestie. “You can get some people that just have a certain type of bacteria in their mouth that can cause that.”

However, there are some people who are more likely to be prone to bad breath than others.

“It’s partly how your body is made up. Some people don’t have a lot of saliva and so the less you have, the less the food gets washed away naturally in your mouth and so with that you often get a higher bacteria count, which leads to the bad breath.”

For anyone with allergies that makes it hard to breathe through the nose, it can dry out the mouth. That can end in bad breath.

“The largest thing that we see nowadays is people on different medications that actually cause their saliva to dry up and so with that, bad breath comes with it because you’re not washing the bacteria away like you usually do,” said Prestie.

The best way to prevent bad breath is to stay hydrated and drink lots of water as well as brush and floss regularly.

Another important part is getting dental check-ups to make sure the teeth are in good condition.

“Similarly if there is something that’s not associated with a cold, a short-term sinus cold or that kind of thing, just have your doctor check it out because there are some people that have defects through their throat or their tonsils that causes food to catch or bacteria to grow,” said Prestie.

“If you’re doing the basic maintenance and you’re still having trouble that’s something worth checking out with a dentist, a doctor or an ear, nose and throat specialist.”

Chewing gum can also help relieve bad breath by helping the saliva wash away any remaining food.

“It does stimulate your saliva so you can help wash those things away and have a flavour that will help cover any odour that is there, but from a dental point of view, we like that it gets your saliva going,” said Prestie.

Mouthwashes can also assist in relieving bad breath, but it’s important to only use non-alcoholic mouthwashes.

“While it does give you a zing and you do smell it and what not on a short term, the alcohol mouthwashes will often dry your mouth, which allows the bad breath to come back because your mouth is now drier than it was before you used it,” he said.

“If you’re having trouble with your mouth being dry and getting bad breath because of it, there are a variety of things available as saliva substitutes that can help moisten your mouth.”

Five things you might not know about bad breath

Bad breath can be the result of many factors. Here are 10 facts relating to bad breath:

1. Coffee can cause bad breath - The caffeine can dry out the mouth by slowing the production of saliva

2. After eating spicy food such as garlic, the only solution for the odour to go away is time - The body will break down the compounds and travel through the blood stream. Garlic can remain in the body for days.

3. The most common location for bad breath is on the tongue - Bacteria are sheltered on the back of the tongue and survive on food and dead skin cells. Make sure to brush the tongue too.

4. Smoking causes bad breath - Smoking dries out the mouth and drains it from oxygen. The germs need to work faster and harder.

5. Cinnamon-flavoured chewing gum cuts bad breath germs in half - Research conducted by the University of Illinois in Chicago discovered cinnamon-flavoured gum cuts the smelly germs by 50 per cent. Cinnamon-flavoured gum contains cinnamic aldehyde or cinnamon oil, which kills germs. Other flavours of chewing gum resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in those germs.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Ominica Dental Group, University of Illinois

Geographic location: Chicago

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