Easy ways to keep breath fresh

Struggling to keep your breath fresh? It’s something that many of us struggle with, despite regularly brushing our teeth and saying no to garlic bread. While bad breath may not seem high on your list of concerns, it could be a sign that the health of your mouth is out of balance.

“When we talk about bad breath, we’re generally talking about an imbalance in the oral microbiome,” says dental surgeon, Dr Maria Papavergos. “With bad breath, we see an increase of odorous, anaerobic bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria produce volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs), which create the bad breath smell.”

“These bacteria tend to dominate the surface of the tongue. An imbalance in our oral microbiome and an accumulation of bad bacteria will mean you’re more likely to have bad breath.”

Here, Maria explains some of the easy ways you can balance your oral microbiome and keep breath fresh all day long.

Scrape your tongue

Many of the bacteria that contribute to bad breath sit on the surface of the tongue. One simple way to remove this bacteria is to add tongue scraping into your routine each morning and evening. Tongue scrapers can be bought online – they’re just a rounded piece of plastic or metal that you scrape across the surface of the tongue.

Along with removing the bad bacteria, regularly scraping your tongue can help to protect your future oral health, as Maria explains.

“Tongue scraping is great as it encourages you to look at your tongue and become more familiar with your mouth,” she says. “This means you’re more likely to notice any changes in your mouth that could be the early signs of disease or even cancer.”

“This is particularly important at the moment as these signs are what your dentist would normally check for. With lockdown causing disruption to dental appointments, we’re concerned there could be a rise in these warning signs going a miss.”

Maintain good oral hygiene

When it comes to having fresh breath, good oral hygiene is the aim of the game. Brushing and flossing helps to eliminate dental plaque, giving bad bacteria fewer places to hide.

Brush your teeth well – twice a day for two minutes as a minimum,” explains Maria. “Brush your teeth in front of a mirror too and really become familiar with the position and shape of your teeth to ensure you’re not missing anywhere.”

Mouthwash can be useful to help keep breath fresh, but as Maria explains, it’s important to choose wisely.

“Make sure you use a mouthwash that’s quite mild,” she says. “You want one that contains fluoride but avoid those that say they have an antimicrobial action. These will remove both good and bacteria from your mouth, disrupting your oral microbiome.”

As a general rule, avoid mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine or a high alcohol content.

Drink plenty of water

We all understand the importance of drinking water to keep ourselves hydrated, but it can also help with having fresh breath too.

“We want to avoid having a dry mouth,” explains Maria. “When our mouth is dry, there isn’t enough saliva in our mouth. This encourages the proliferation of bacteria. Saliva helps to maintain the oral microbiome and has a buffering effect against any bad bacteria.”

“Aim for around two litres of water a day. This can include things like herbal teas, which may naturally help you to have fresher breath too.”

Maria also recommends drinking hot water with mint, or even grated ginger to help stay hydrated and keep breath fresh.

“Ginger has actually been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties,” she says. “It’s also been shown to have an effect against pathogenic oral bacteria.”

Eat your five a day

Having plenty of fibre in your diet isn’t just good for your gut health, it’s essential for your oral health too. The chewing action of high fibrous fruit and vegetables helps to stimulate saliva flow, working to support your oral microbiome.

“Fruit and vegetables are far less likely to accumulate on your teeth like other starchier foods do,” explains Maria. “This means there’s less substrate in your mouth for bad bacteria to cling onto.”

Enjoy probiotic foods

We’re big fans of probiotic foods here at Liz Earle Wellbeing. From kefir and kombucha to kimchi and sourdough, incorporating more of these foods into your diet can help to support your gut heath. There’s also emerging evidence to suggest probiotics can keep your mouth healthy too.

“The gut and oral microbiome are closely linked,” says Maria. “Eating probiotic foods helps to boost good bacteria. There’s emerging evidence that probiotic foods can help to inhibit the production of VSCs from bad bacteria too, helping us to have fresher breath.”

In particular, researchers think that fermented dairy foods – like kefir and natural yoghurt – may offer the most benefit.

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