If you’re worried about how your breath smells at close quarters, dietitian Katrina Pace comes to the rescue with simple tips.
For many of us, finishing a cup of coffee leaves us yearning for an extra-strong mint — so imagine how you’d feel if your mouth constantly smelled or tasted like that. For many people, however, halitosis (or chronic bad breath) is a big problem.
Waking with ‘morning breath’ is quite normal, and it usually goes away after eating and drinking or brushing your teeth. Your breath can also smell different after drinking coffee or alcohol, or eating spicy food, garlic or onions — sometimes you may think you’ve got bad breath when actually it’s quite okay.
But, if you’re concerned or embarrassed about ongoing bad breath, a trip to the doctor or dentist may be in order, because there could be something else going on with your health.
What causes bad breath?
The first place to investigate the origin of bad breath is your mouth. When odor-causing bacteria attack food particles after eating, they release strong-smelling sulfur compounds. People with halitosis may have more of these bacteria present in their mouths.
Additionally, not rinsing, brushing or flossing your teeth properly leads to a build-up of plaque on the teeth, and can cause a strong smell in the mouth. Gingivitis — a swelling of the gums caused by a build-up of plaque on your teeth — can also cause bad breath.
Medications, breathing through your mouth, or medical conditions that reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth can cause problems too. That’s because saliva keeps the mouth moist, reducing odor and the layering of food particles.
Something more serious?
Strong-smelling breath can also be a symptom of medical conditions such as sinus, mouth or throat infections, or inflammation and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD).
High blood sugar, which occurs as a result of undiagnosed or uncontrolled diabetes, can be the cause of a sweet, pear–smelling breath. Bad breath may also indicate iron deficiency anemia.
What goes in …
And then, of course, there’s what you put in your mouth! Eating, drinking, and smoking can all potentially cause bad breath, along with foods that contain high amounts of sulfur compounds, such as garlic and onion. Spiced and strong-flavored food and drink may also create problems. Coffee can cause temporary bad breath, and alcohol is thought to dry the mouth.
Finally, you may notice the smell of your breath changes if you make dietary changes. For people on a ketogenic diet, ketones (a by-product of fat that is used for energy) can produce a pungently smelling, acetone-like breath.