A breath of fresh air; LIZ CONNOR gets fresh ideas on how to banish mouth odours.
The major problem with having breath that physically repels others is that - in most cases - you can't actually smell the rancid fumes you're inadvertantly wafting into the room.
As such, the cruel nature of life means we continue going about our day, oblivious to the effect our putrid breath has on others.
While there is a certain bliss in ignorance, it's not a great way to make friends. Handily, there are ways to stop bad breath in its tracks - but it takes more than brushing twice-a-day.
We asked Henry Clover, chief dental officer at Simplyhealth, to give us some advice on keeping your mouth smelling fresh from morning to night.
PRACTICE PERFECT ORAL HEALTH FIRST and foremost, your oral health has a huge impact upon the freshness of your mouth. "Bacteria can build up in your mouth and release unpleasant gases, so make sure you're removing plaque - the white sticky deposit that collects on your teeth - by brushing your teeth for two minutes, twice-a-day," says Henry. "Bacteria can also lurk on the surface of your tongue, so it may benefit from a quick brush too."
Brushing alone only reaches around 70% of tooth surfaces, so you'll need to get right into all of your nooks and crannies. "Make sure you're cleaning between your teeth every day to remove plaque and food particles," Henry adds, "as these will start to smell as they break down.
"Find what works best for you and take guidance from your dental team - this could be floss, interdental brushes or even electric water or air flossers, and ensure you're cleaning between your teeth at least once a day."
SEE YOUR DENTIST IF BRUSHING doesn't help, bad breath could be the sign of an underlying health issue your dentist should check out. "Gum disease and other infections in the mouth can cause very bad breath," says Henry. "The mildest form of gum disease is known as gingivitis, which is fairly common and easier to reverse in its early stages with a good brushing and flossing routine, as well as regular dental appointments."
If gingivitis is not effectively treated, it can eventually lead to the more serious stage known as periodontitis. "This affects the whole supporting structure of teeth including gums, ligaments and jaw bone, and can lead to tooth loss," warns Henry. "The infection in the gums can become so severe it causes the gum tissue to detach from the tooth, which creates a pocket."
Not surprisingly, getting a bad case of periodontitis can further compound a bad breath problem, as more and more bacteria and food particles get trapped in the pockets, leading to advanced infection.
KICK THE SMOKING HABIT IF one of your resolutions is to quit smoking, the idea of having 'nicotine breath' on your next date might be enough to ditch the cigarettes for good. "If you smoke, this can have a huge effect on the freshness of your breath, as well as your oral health," says Henry.
"Smoking increases your risk of gum disease, which is another potential cause of bad breath, not to mention the significant general health risks of tobacco."
STAY HYDRATED CRANKING up the central heating during the winter months can make mouth odours even more pungent.
"Staying hydrated is important as a dry mouth and lack of saliva can cause bad breath," advises Henry.
"When you have low levels of saliva, bacteria in the mouth can grow more easily and release odours. This is why you often notice bad breath first thing in the morning - because you produce less saliva when you sleep." He advises drinking plenty of good hydrating fluids such as water, and avoid high levels of caffeine and alcohol which can increase dehydration.
PASS ON THE GARLIC BREAD WE'VE all had those nights where we've gorged on fragrant foods and woken up the next day tasting the unpleasant after effects. "Avoiding strong-smelling food can help keep your breath fresh," advises Henry. "These include onions, garlic, and spices, and drinks such as coffee and alcohol."
Cutting out too many foods can, ironically, cause issues too. "Crashdiets, not eating enough, and low carbohydrate diets can cause bad breath," says Henry. "This is because your body starts to break down body fat to feed itself, which produces chemicals called ketones that can be smelt on your breath."
So aside from keeping your diet in check and skipping your morning coffee, what else can you do to keep those pesky microorganisms under control? "Sugar-free chewing gum and sugar-free mints can also help stimulate saliva flow production and freshen breath," says Henry, "so it's handy to have a pack in your bag for odour emergencies."
Oral hygiene and regular dental checks are important for keeping bad breath at bay
Drink plenty of water and ease up on coffee and alcohol