9 Things That Could Give You Bad Breath

And what you can do about them...

We all get bad breath now and again and there are many causes: from simply overdoing the garlic bread and red wine to more serious health issues. Happily, most are preventable and treatable. We look at nine things that may be causing your bad breath and what you can do about them.

1
Neglecting your oral hygiene
Philips
The consequence of this is the most usual cause of bad breath. It’s all too easy to skimp on brushing and forget to floss regularly. It’s possibly years since you were taught correct brushing and flossing techniques for removing all food particles and plaque, so chat to your dentist for a reminder.

Dentists recommend brushing teeth at least twice a day for two minutes and flossing regularly. And if you use an electric toothbrush, you’ll do an even better job. “70% of us do not brush our teeth for a full two minutes, so are more likely to have bacteria that come in, make themselves at home, eat our food and then defecate in our mouths. This, in effect, is the classic bad breath smell,” said Dr Pixie McKenna on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies.
2
Developing gum disease
BSIP/UIG via Getty Images
Chronic bad breath is usually caused by gum disease. If you don’t remove plaque by thorough daily brushing, it builds up and attracts bacteria, irritating gums so they bleed or become sore and swollen. Bacteria in plaque below the gum line give off sulphur-type gases that smell characteristically bad. This first stage of gum disease, where gums are inflamed and may become infected, is known as gingivitis.

If not treated, gingivitis leads to periodontal disease – and extremely bad breath. Periodontitis affects the tissues that hold teeth in place. Teeth may develop abscesses, loosen and even fall out.

The good news is, gum disease is preventable with twice-daily brushing, flossing and regular dentist visits. Regular use of an electric toothbrush is a great choice to keep your teeth and gums in good health.
3
Ignoring your tongue
BSIP via Getty Images
Smelly bacteria can also live on the rough surface on the back of your tongue. To help control bad breath, clean your tongue, scraping away any built-up coating when you brush your teeth.
4
Consuming pungent food and drink
Getty Images
A temporary cause of bad breath is, of course, food containing garlic, onions and spices. Coffee has an effect too, as does alcohol, which tends to dry your mouth. Good oral hygiene will ensure that your breath is recognisably food-and-drink-scented rather than anything nastier. If it’s too much you can always chew on parsley, sugar-free gum or mints for freshness.
5
Smoking
Oliver Helbig / EyeEm via Getty Images
As well as making your breath smell like an old ashtray and staining your teeth yellow, smoking irritates gums, causing gum disease that leads to bad breath, gingivitis and periodontitis. Smoking hinders the mouth’s healing processes, making treating gum disease more difficult. For advice on giving up smoking for good, visit the NHS website, Smokefree.
6
Dieting and fasting
Melissa Ross via Getty Images
Fasting, very low carb and crash diets cause your body to break down fat, releasing ketones - chemicals that give your breath a distinctive smell. They’re responsible for the infamous ‘dragon breath’ of the Atkins Diet. If you follow these diets, take care to follow a good oral hygiene routine.
7
Having a dry mouth and morning breath
Tom Merton via Getty Images
Saliva flow cleans your mouth, naturally removing decaying food particles. When saliva production is reduced – perhaps you’ve been breathing through your mouth in your sleep, have had a few glasses of wine, or have a dry mouth condition called xerostomia – you can develop bad breath. A dry mouth is the main culprit of ‘morning breath’ and is easily rectifiable with a cup of tea and brushing your teeth.
8
Having oral infections
Science Photo Library via Getty Images
Even when you don’t have gum disease, infections in your mouth such as dental abscesses, mouth ulcers, or infection after dental surgery will give warning signs as bad breath. See your dentist or GP as soon as you can.
9
Feeling ill
Tom Merton via Getty Images
Bad breath can be a sign that you’re not well – a cold or tummy bug is enough to cause it. Sinusitis, tonsillitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other gastrointestinal problems also affect your breath. Embarrassing Bodies dentist Dr James Russell says, “Bad breath can be caused by systemic problems such as liver, kidney or lung infections, but the main cause of bad breath is gum disease.”

Regular brushing, flossing and visits to your dentist can prevent the plaque build-up that causes most cases of bad breath.

The new generation of electric toothbrushes such as Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean can remove up to seven times more plaque than a manual toothbrush (1), for healthier gums and less staining. Partner your Philips Sonicare toothbrush with Sonicare AirFloss, an innovative, fast and hassle-free way to remove 99.9% of plaque (2) from hard-to-reach places in just 60 seconds using blasts of air and water or mouthwash and is proven to improve the gum health of 97% of users (3) With this unbeatable combination from Philips, plaque has nowhere to hide and you can enjoy fresh breath confidence.

1) In deep clean mode, with a Premium Clean brush head vs a manual toothbrush
2) From the treated areas; in a lab study, actual in-mouth results may vary
3) When used in conjunction with a manual toothbrush and anti-microbial mouth rinse in patients with mild to moderate gingivitis