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‘What’s causing my bad breath?’

Boots pharmacist Meera Joshi helps us get to the bottom of those irritating niggles

Meera says: ‘Bad breath is often asked about in the pharmacy. In many cases, it’s down to people’s oral hygiene – if bacteria are left to build up in your mouth, the gases they produce cause breath to smell. That’s why it’s so important to brush teeth thoroughly twice a day and to floss between them regularly – any food trapped in your teeth is broken down by bacteria, which can lead to some unpleasant-smelling gases if the bacteria and food aren’t brushed away. People often neglect their tongues, too, so gently clean yours regularly with a tongue scraper or your toothbrush, as a coating of bacteria can remain there.


If you still notice bad breath after making these hygiene tweaks, make an appointment to see your dentist, as it could be a sign of an underlying health issue, such as gum disease: look out for red, swollen or bleeding gums after brushing or flossing. As not everyone has the symptoms, regular dental check-ups are the best way to protect yourself – your dentist will advise you on how often these should be.

Most people have some degree of ‘morning breath’. It’s normal and usually clears when the flow of saliva increases after eating breakfast

We all know our diets can also contribute to bad breath (strong-smelling foods like onions and garlic, and drinking alcohol and coffee are the main culprits), but don’t worry, it’s usually temporary and can be prevented simply by avoiding these triggers. You could try chewing sugar-free gum after eating or drinking. Although there’s no conclusive research that gum prevents bad breath, it will speed up saliva production and this helps clear the mouth of any debris after a meal.


Fasting and low-carb diets can also lead to odd-smelling breath. They cause the body to break down fat, which produces chemicals called ketones that have a sickly-sweet smell. Finally, most people have some degree of “morning breath”. It’s perfectly normal and happens because your mouth tends to get dry and stagnates overnight. It usually clears when the flow of saliva increases after you start to eat breakfast. In rare cases, bad breath can be the result of a medical condition or a particular medication, so check with your GP if you’re concerned.’

Compiled by Charlotte Grant-West Photography Matthew Walder, Pixeleyes


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