Everything you need to know about bad breath and current solutions to the problem.
If you’ve never had problems with your breath, this article is probably not for you. For the rest of us, here is a breakdown of current advances in dentistry that will help you navigate the problem and find the best solution.
Where bad breath comes from
Bad breath comes from four main sources:
- Most often it’s the bacteria in a person’s mouth
- For chronic smokers, it can be from residue in their lungs and trachea
- Some foods and drinks can leave a distinctive smell, e.g. coffee, garlic, spices
- Less often, it’s a sign of disease: kidneys, stomach or severe systemic disorders
If you don’t smoke and don’t suffer from chronic disease, the most likely source of bad breath is bacteria. Luckily, it is easy to manage.
Why bacteria smell
In themselves, bacteria are odourless. What we smell is the product of their existence. Bacteria find nutrients on our teeth, digest those nutrients, extract energy required for the bacteria to breed, and, well… excrete gas. The most common gases created by bacteria are based on sulphur, and we register sulphur compounds as unpleasant-smelling.
Habits that lead to bad breath
Most common causes behind bad breath are connected with a person’s daily habits, especially hygiene:
Irregular brushing of teeth. Bacteria live and breed all the time. If someone brushes their teeth irregularly, they give bacteria enough time to form a protective layer – biofilm. Biofilm helps bacteria breed faster, and the stronger the film gets, the more difficult it is to disrupt.
Fast, forceful brushing. This does more harm than good. If a person brushes with high speed and pressure, they damage their teeth, irritate their gums and leave a lot of areas uncleaned. Irritated gums are more susceptible to bacterial damage and inflammation. Damaged enamel is ideal for bacteria to thrive, too.
Mouthwash instead of brushing. There is a common misconception that in brushing, the most important thing is to apply toothpaste to the teeth, as if it chemically dissolves the bacteria. Following that same logic, many believe that using strong mouthwashes can also clean out the bacteria. If only that was true! In reality, the most important part of brushing is the mechanical action applied by the bristles in a toothbrush.
Cheaper, harder brushes. Another misconception is that harder brushes are better at cleaning teeth than softer ones, similar to brushes needed to properly clean toilets or kitchen floors. But to our teeth, harder brushes do more damage than good. The best brushes for effective cleaning are soft high-density brushes, like the CS 5460 and similar.
Chewing gum for fast relief. While it is true that chewing gum stimulates the flow of saliva, which in turn can eliminate some of the bacterial waste, this is not the whole story. Some chewing gums can actually supply the bacteria with nutrients they need to breed, and others can aggravate stomach-related diseases, which in turn will make the bad breath worse. If you rely heavily on chewing gum, be mindful of its composition.
How to brush for fresher breath: the basics
Luckily, bad breath can be minimised within 1–2 weeks if a person adjusts their brushing habits.
An interdental space is where bacteria can build up effortlessly, unless this area is addressed. And although this space is tiny, it’s enough for bacteria to do substantial damage to both teeth and gums. Cleaning your interdental space once a day will be enough to keep your gums and teeth healthier, and your breath fresher.
To clean an interdental space, gently push the tip of an interdental brush into the interdental space, push it all the way in, and then pull it out. In and out, and then proceed to the next space.
Before using interdentals, ask your dentist to measure your interdental space and show you how to properly use interdental brushes. This process is simple:
- Your dentist will measure each interdental (ID) space using a special colour-marked probe
- You will get an individual sizing chart that covers each ID space. Use it to order your perfect stock of ID brushes.
Soft, high density brushes
For your regular brushing, consider getting a package that says ‘soft’ or ‘ultrasoft’. Inspect the brushes in that category and look for the ones with the most bristles, packed at maximum density. Such brushes prove to be the most effective in everyday cleaning.
We recommend the Curaprox CS 5460 – our most efficient and high-quality manual brush.
Alternative: electric brush with a soft high-density brush head
For best results, use an electric toothbrush with a proper brush head – soft, and high density. We recommend the Curaprox Hydrosonic pro: it provides efficient cleaning thanks to Curen™ filaments.
Gentle, circular brushing motion
A soft brush doesn’t require force. Put it to your teeth and apply minimal pressure while moving the brush in circles, covering both the teeth and the gums. Do not rush or push too hard, keep it gentle. It only takes several strokes of soft high-density brushing to disrupt the biofilm in a particular place.
Top and bottom, front and back
With brushing, it is critical to cover all parts of your teeth and not leave anything untouched. When a certain part is neglected for a long time, bacteria build thicker and stronger biofilm, which in turn can cause bad breath and tooth decay. Pay special attention to back molars and hard-to-reach areas of your gums.
Use a pro-grade toothpaste
Although the brush plays the most important role in tooth-brushing, a toothpaste can increase or decrease its efficiency. All Curaprox pastes contain enzymes to boost the protective properties of your saliva. They also have low abrasiveness to protect your teeth.
Which is better: an electric or a manual brush?
If you hesitate between choosing a manual or an electric brush, consider this:
In a brush, it’s not the body that matters, it’s the head. Whatever you choose, make sure you have a soft, high-density brush head. The rest is a matter of preference.
Electric brushes are very efficient in plaque removal. They are also effective for people with braces and who have a hard time brushing. It’s very easy to use electric brushes with children and the elderly.
Remember that no matter the type of brush, you still have to replace the brush head approximately every 3 months. The bacteria that transfer from your teeth to your brush can breed the same way they breed on your teeth, so make sure your brush head is changed regularly.
Advanced tools and techniques
For those aiming for best results, consider these ideas:
If you feel like you’re not reaching parts of your teeth with your regular toothbrushes, use single brushes – these are super-dense precision tools that help you clean where no other brush would be able to get. Singles are especially useful near the gums and at the molars where the space is tight.
The tongue is also a place for bacteria to thrive. Although it is constantly under the wash of saliva, it can accumulate foul-smelling residue over time. A tongue scraper is a great way to clean it off, making your breath even fresher.
Expert advice: how to avoid the gag reflex when using a tongue scraper
“When I put the scraper on the back of my tongue I always get a gag reflex. But if I place it lightly on the side, rather than in the middle, I find it much easier to clean. First left and then right, just apply a slight pressure and then move the brush forward – it works!”
— Ana Stevanović, Head of Education at Curaden
Pro-grade chewing gum
Much like a proper toothpaste, gum can stimulate the flow of saliva and contribute to whitening. Beware, though: chewing gum alone isn’t enough to keep your teeth healthy and your breath fresh. We recommend the Curaprox ‘Black is white’ gum which was specifically designed to aid in dental care, and with natural whitening in mind.