February is National Fresh Breath Month.

February is National Fresh Breath Month.

February is the month of love and Valentines Day is all anyone is talking about. But there is something else that needs a bit more attention this month - fresh breath. 

It is National Fresh Breath Month. According to experts, almost everyone experiences bad breath at some point. Although halitosis is rarely a serious medical issue, it can affect your confidence. Bad breath has even been linked to social anxiety and depression. 

For February’s National Fresh Breath Month, Oral Hygienists Association of South Africa (OHASA) share their top tips to prevent bad breath. 

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The key to beating bad breath is removing bacteria and food debris from your mouth. If not removed, these will break down and decay, releasing foul odours in the process. 

Brushing, even when done correctly for a full two minutes, will remove about half the plaque on your teeth and gums. So whilst brushing twice a day is of paramount importance, on its own, brushing is not enough to prevent bad breath 

As your toothbrush can’t reach right between the teeth, daily interdental cleaning is necessary to remove any plaque or food debris trapped there. According to OHASA, only about a third of South Africans clean in-between daily and about 40% of them are not doing it correctly. 

Anri Bernardo, recently-elected president of OHASA says interproximal care is extra important for people with bleeding gums or periodontal disease.

“Even when periodontal disease is under control, the gums may have receded, forming food traps. It’s vital to clean these areas correctly to prevent further infection as well as bad breath.”

Dirna Grobbelaar, Ivohealth’s oral hygiene advisor and OHASA member, says there’s no excuse not to clean in-between as there is a multitude of tools available to make it a simple process.

“If you don’t like flossing, try picks or an oral irrigator. Tiny interdental brushes make excellent options for anyone with orthodontic braces, implants or gaps between the teeth.”

 Stella Lamprecht, OHASA’s immediate past president recommends gentle scraping every day for the tongue. “The tongue’s surface has tiny grooves where bacteria and plaque can accumulate. Everyone, from children to older people, should incorporate tongue cleaning into their daily routine. If you do it before bed, it can help prevent morning breath.”

Using mouthwash as a final step can give added fresh-breath confidence. 

For good measure, Stella recommends a regular professional ‘deep’ clean. “When an oral hygienist scales and polishes the teeth, they eliminate plaque and tartar build-up that you are unable to remove yourself with usual brushing and flossing.” 

Stella is passionate about her profession because it has many more benefits to patients than just helping them smell good.

“The bacteria that cause bad breath, also irritate the gums and cause cavities. Once you have bleeding gums, ‘bad’ bacteria can enter your bloodstream and this increases your risk of more serious health problems including dementia, heart disease, strokes, kidney problems and even pre-term births. Effective oral hygiene is a vital part of caring for your health and wellness.”

Here are five oral-hygienist approved fixes to give you fresh breath confidence. 

1. Brush correctly twice a day for two minutes each time.

2. Clean between the teeth every day with floss, interdental picks, an interproximal brush or an oral irrigator, whichever tool suits you best.

3. Gently scrape the tongue each day to remove plaque and food debris from its surface.

4. Rinse with saltwater, alcohol-free mouthwash or chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva flow.

5. See your oral hygienist for a professional clean, ideally twice a year or more frequently.

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