Cleaning between the teeth every day with floss or any preferred interdental tool can help fight off bad breath.Foto:

Cleaning between the teeth every day with floss or any preferred interdental tool can help fight off bad breath.Foto:

February marks National Fresh Breath Month, and walking around with bad breath, or halitosis, is something perhaps every one of us has suffered from at times. Experts agree it is a common problem, that most people experience at some point for a variety of reasons.

But there are ways to avoid the embarrassment. To start with, you can check if you are packing a smelly punch with a simple test: lick the inside of your wrist and sniff it.

“If it smells bad, you can be fairly sure you have bad breath and can do something about it!” advises Dirna Grobbelaar, oral hygienist with Ivohealth and a member of the Oral Hygienists Association of South Africa (Ohasa).

A few explanations for bad breath include something one has eaten, such as garlic and onions, dry mouth (medically known as xerostomia), possibly from medications one is taking, being in ketosis due to one’s diet, infections in the throat, nose and sinuses, or lungs, conditions such diabetes, liver and/or kidney problems, smoking or, most commonly, poor oral hygiene and gum disease.

It is important to note that the bacteria that cause bad breath also irritate the gums, causing bleeding. Once you have bleeding gums, “bad” bacteria can enter your bloodstream and increase your risk of more serious health problems, such as dementia, heart disease, strokes, kidney problems and even premature birth. So avoiding bad breath through good oral hygiene is a vital part of caring for your overall health and wellness.

Beating bad breath by getting into the problem

The first step in overcoming bad breath is to keep your mouth healthy by adopting a good oral hygiene routine. According to Grobbelaar, effective oral care is the key to beating bad breath. If bacteria and food debris are not removed from your mouth they break down and decay, releasing foul odours in the process.

Dr Stephne Fenwick, a dentist and clinical adviser with Ivohealth, says many people think brushing alone is enough to keep their mouths clean. However, even when done correctly for a full two minutes, brushing will only remove about half the plaque on your teeth and gums. So, while brushing twice a day is of paramount importance it is not enough to prevent bad breath. So, what is the solution?

Fenwick advises that, as one’s toothbrush can’t reach between the teeth, daily interdental cleaning is essential to remove trapped plaque and food debris. According to Ohasa, only about a third of South Africans clean in-between their teeth every day, and almost half of them are not doing it correctly.

Thankfully there is a multitude of tools available to make cleaning in between your teeth simple and easy. Flossing is the most common, and there are many different kinds of floss available.

Another recommended solution for interproximal cleaning is an interdental brush with a 90 bendable head and antibacterial bristles. Interdental brubridge, bracesshes are a great choice if you have gaps between your teeth, or have implants. “Food getting stuck in between teeth, under bridges, or in between implants are a major cause of bad breath, as this food starts to break down and smell,” Fenwick explains. “These brushes prevent this.”

If you are uncertain which interdental tools are best for you, visit

And then don’t forget your tongue. The tongue’s surface has tiny grooves where bacteria and plaque can accumulate, and everyone should incorporate tongue cleaning into their daily routine.

Using mouthwash, as a final step, can give added fresh-breath confidence; try rinsing with salt water or an alcohol-free rinse.

Five dental professional-approved fixes to beat bad breath

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

2. Clean between the teeth every day with floss, interdental picks, an interdental 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 salt water or alcohol-free mouthwash for added confidence

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

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