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Banishing bad breath

If you eat a meal containing garlic or onions, it's only natural that your breath will smell of them. However, this smell disappears after a while. In contrast, chronic bad breath – or halitosis – is extremely unpleasant for sufferers and can make face-to-face contact with other people very difficult.

About a third of the world's population suffers from chronic bad breath. Although this issue is rarely discussed, it is important to understand the reasons behind it if we are to combat it effectively.

A variety of triggers
In general terms, we differentiate between local and systemic causes of bad breath. In about 90% of cases the cause can be found locally in the mouth and throat area. Triggers can include bacterial deposits on the tongue, inflammation of the gums, periodontitis, tooth decay, inadequate saliva flow, local infections and inadequate oral hygiene. Bad breath stemming from systemic factors is much less common. Here it can be caused by disorders of the intestinal flora, medicines containing sulfur, and illnesses such as kidney failure, diabetes or sinusitis.

Nutrition is another important factor. Diets which exclude carbohydrates often lead to bad breath. This occurs initially as a result of metabolic readjustment (ketosis). In addition, a protein-rich diet leads to an increased incidence of sulfur-producing bacteria in the throat.

Oral hygiene is the key
The best way to combat bad breath is good oral hygiene. It is important that you brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes. As part of this process you should also clean your tongue because odour-causing bacteria can accumulate there, particularly towards the back. You don't need any special equipment for this; you can simply use your toothbrush. You should also floss daily to remove particles of food from between your teeth.

Other ways of combating bad breath

  • Drink plenty of water to ensure that you are properly hydrated. A dry mouth is more likely to harbour odour-causing bacteria.
  • Chew gum (sugar-free for preference) to encourage the product of saliva.
  • Cut out or reduce your consumption of tobacco and alcohol because they can increase the incidence of bad breath.
  • Fasting programmes and crash diets can lead to heartburn and belching due to the sharply reduced intake of calories and nutrients. A balanced diet will help prevent these symptoms.
  • Sage tea can be a good remedy. Drink or gargle with the tea to eliminate sulfurous gases which are produced in the mouth and throat.

If you find that you still suffer from bad breath despite practising good oral hygiene and following the tips above, you should consult a dentist.

Health advice around the clock
If you have any questions about your health, the doctors and medical staff at sante24 would be happy to offer you expert advice – free of charge, around the clock. On request, sante24 will also make a doctor’s appointment for you. Phone 044 404 86 86