Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Oral health centre

This content is selected and controlled by BootsWebMD's editorial staff and is supported by Colgate.

Change your breath from bad to good

Bad breath is embarrassing, unpleasant and all too common. These eight easy tips will help keep your breath sweet.
By
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

We've all found ourselves chatting with someone whose breath could easily wilt a flower. It's difficult to know how common bad breath is, but according to one study, it could affect up to 50% of people at some point in their lives. That's a lot of wilted flowers.

Nine times out of 10, bad breath is caused by bacteria in the mouth, which is hardly surprising as the mouth is the ideal breeding ground for bacteria—it's warm (37C) and humid (96% humidity).

About 500 different types of bacteria are found in the human mouth, and most of them are capable of making the sulphurous compounds that cause bad breath.

Dry mouth

Saliva has antibacterial substances which keep these bacteria at a manageable level. Saliva is also good at flushing out bits of food that are left in our mouth after eating. It is for these two reasons that a dry mouth is often accompanied by bad breath.

"Everyone's has bad breath in the morning because during the night your salivary glands almost shut down, so you wake up in the morning with a dry mouth," explains Dr Peter Frost an honorary senior specialist clinical teacher at King's College London Dental Institute. "People who are 'mouth-breathers'— and that includes people who snore—are particularly prone to having a dry mouth when they wake up."

Sinus problems

"If somebody had bad breath, we typically ask if they have had facial pain underneath their eyes and on their forehead," says Dr Anton Emmanuel, consultant gastroenterologist at University College Hospital. "Those two areas are where your sinuses are. And sometimes chronic sinusitis can cause bad breath."

People with chronic sinusitis often have post-nasal drip, which is when the excess mucus produced by the sinuses drips down the throat and coats the back of the tongue with a layer of mucus. This bacteria-rich mucus gives off a foul odour.

Some people use tongue scrapers (see below) to remove the mucus from their tongue, but this is only a temporary solution. If you suspect that you have chronic (long term) sinusitis, you should see your GP.

Food

Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, can also cause bad breath. Some people think that the smell of garlic is coming from their stomach, but it actually comes from their mouth. The oils in garlic and onion adhere to the teeth and tongue and linger for a long time.

Treating bad breath

Most of the time, bad breath is short lived and can easily be treated. Here are some tips for banishing bad breath.

Stay informed

Sign up for BootsWebMD's free newsletters.
Sign Up Now!

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

woman looking at pregnancy test
Early pregnancy symptoms
donut on plate
The truth about sugar addiction
smiling_handsome_man
Put your best face forward
couple watching sunset
How much do you know?
woman in bikini
Get ready for swimsuit season
woman_holding_head_in_pain
How to help tension headaches
assorted spices
Pump up the flavour with spices
bag of crisps
Food cravings that wreck your diet
woman with cucumbers on eyes
How to banish dark circles and bags
probiotic shakes
Help digestion
polka dot dress on hangar
Lose weight without dieting