Bad breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, arises mainly from the coating of the tongue and the crevices between the teeth and gums. Dental plaque is a substance which settles on the teeth and is made up of dead cells and bacteria. It accumulates rapidly if you don't keep your teeth and gums really clean. The bacteria cause the release of sulphide compounds and it is these compounds are responsible for the smell. If you think you clean your teeth well already, try using some of the plaque demonstrating tablets that they use in schools to show kids where to brush their teeth. You may be in for a shock!

A degree of bad breath is common in healthy mouths, in the morning for instance or after eating certain foods especially garlic, onions, curries. Smoking and some drugs, including alcohol can also contribute.

Measures that will help

  • Regular tooth brushing, together with flossing in between the teeth and regular visits to the dentist and a dental hygienist will help.
  • Eat regularly
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid foods known to cause bad breath
  • Chew sugar free gum regularly
  • Use an oral deodorant (widely available over the counter at pharmacies)
  • Use an antibacterial mouthwash
A factfile is available from The British Dental Association: 020 7935 0875 Oral Deodorants can be bought in confidence online at Dental hygiene products can be bought online at

Further information

The British Dental Association

This article published on
01 July 2005

Next review date 7/1/2013


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