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What causes bad breath?

Are you worried about bad breath? Find out how to prevent it.

It’s never a bad idea to pop a mint before a meeting or a first date, but did you know some people suffer from halitophobia – a paranoia of having bad breath?

For those of us without halitophobia, bad breath has some fairly common causes. Let’s look at what bad breath actually is, and how to treat it.

What is bad breath?

Halitosis — the medical term for bad breath — is often caused by poor teeth brushing and flossing. If you keep up these bad habits, bacteria can build up and produce smelly gas. This bacteria is often on your tongue, especially toward the back where it’s hard to reach. While it’s unpleasant, bad breath is not infectious and it’s fairly common, affecting about 2.4 per cent of Australian adults.

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What causes bad breath?

Watch Medibank expert Dr Kelly Tse explain what can cause bad breath, as well as treatment and prevention strategies.

Aside from poor oral hygiene, a number of factors can trigger bad breath. These include;

  • Smoking
  • Coffee
  • Certain foods such as garlic and onion
  • Dental problems, like gum disease
  • Dry mouth or dehydration
  • Acid reflux
  • Postnasal discharge, caused by chronic sinusitis
  • Some medications, such as certain heart medication and chemotherapy
  • Serious conditions such as gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), respiratory disease, or diabetes.

How do I prevent bad breath?

There are some simple things you can do to prevent bad breath.

To keep your mouth so fresh and so clean, brush and floss twice a day. Gentle scraping or brushing on your tongue is also recommended – the hardest to reach parts are usually the smelliest.

It’s important to drink lots of water and avoid smelly food and drink. Quitting smoking can also help to prevent bad breath, as well as reduce your risk of gum disease.

If the underlying cause of your bad breath is due to a more serious dental problem or health condition, managing them properly will help prevent bad breath. Regular dental check-ups can help you keep on top of gum disease and other dental problems, while your GP can help manage health conditions like diabetes.

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How do I treat bad breath?

The best way to treat bad breath is to address the underlying cause, for example ensuring you are brushing your teeth and flossing regularly.

There are also plenty of ‘quick fixes’ to help manage it. Mouthwashes, sprays, lozenges, and chewing gums can all help. If you suffer from sinus issues, treatment such as rinses and sprays are also an option.

If symptoms don’t resolve or you’d like to find the right treatment for you, speak to your dentist or your GP.

Learn more about common health conditions in our What Causes series here.

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