Bad breath, also known as halitosis or oral malodour, affects most people at some point in their lives, including during treatment for cancer. Dirna Grobbelaar, Ivohealth’s oral hygiene expert, shares simple advice that will give you fresh breath confidence.
Saliva is the body’s natural way to clean the mouth; the bacteria that cause bad breath thrive in a dry mouth. If you experience dry mouth, or xerostomia, a side effect of over 400 commonly prescribed medications, including chemotherapy drugs, you are more likely to experience bad breath.
Unfortunately, most of us are unaware when we have it. It’s best to ask a loved one or member of your healthcare team. Alternatively, you can lick your wrist, starting with the back of the tongue to the tip. Allow to dry for 10 seconds, and smell for any unpleasant odour.
Inadequate oral care is the most common cause of bad breath. If plaque and food debris are not physically removed – by correctly brushing, flossing and rinsing – they break down in the mouth, releasing bad odours, as well as causing irritation and disease. An effective daily oral care routine is the foundation for fresh breath and a healthy mouth.
Incorporate these five things into your oral care routine:
- Brush correctly twice a day for a full two minutes each time. Some brushes come with a built-in timer. If your mouth is sensitive, dip the brush in hot water to soften the bristles.
- Clean in-between the teeth every day – the mouth is not clean until it’s clean in-between! If you are in doubt, simply pull a length of floss between your back teeth and sniff! If you find flossing awkward or tiring look for another interdental tool, there are many options. The Panasonic Oral Irrigator is very gentle. There are also tiny interdental brushes available, and new GUM Soft-Picks Advanced. Look for Sunstar GUM’s interdental range, the widest in South Africa.
- Food and bacteria can ‘gather’ on the back of the tongue, causing bad breath. Gently clean the tongue once a day, ideally using a tool specially designed for this job, like the Sunstar GUM Tongue Cleaner.
- For extra fresh breath confidence, swish with alcohol-free mouthwash. I recommend alcohol-free Dentyl Active. It contains fluoride; is the same pH as saliva; is very gentle; and leaves the mouth feeling refreshed.
- Have a professional clean every six months and see the dentist each year. Ideally schedule a clean a couple of weeks before beginning treatment.
It’s a good idea to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated, and to eat or chew sugar-free gum regularly to stimulate saliva, nature’s natural ‘mouthwash’.
MEET OUR EXPERT – Dirna Grobbelaar
Dirna Grobbelaar qualified as an oral hygienist in 1999. She consults to Ivohealth, and also works in practice part-time to keep up-to-date with the latest trends, information and patient concerns.