With Valentine’s Day looming, it’s not just about love and romance. If you want to get fresh, it’s time to brush up on your oral hygiene.
Poor oral hygiene causes a mouthful of ailments including off-putting bad breath, missing teeth, and bleeding gums. A recent survey found one in five people said they had been put off kissing someone because of bad oral health. Obviously, brushing and flossing regularly are musts for a fresh mouth, but with Valentine’s Day just over a week away, here’s what else you can do to ensure you don’t get put off.
Brush your tongue
Halitosis is caused by the anaerobic sulphur-producing bacteria found beneath the surface of the tongue, according to dentist and bad breath guru Dr. Harold Katz. So clean your tongue gently with your toothbrush or look for brushes that have special tongue cleaners on the back of the head. Begin cleaning from the front, slowly moving to the back of the tongue to ensure you don’t gag. Do twice daily or whenever your breath feels less than fresh.
Saliva is Mother Nature’s very own teeth and mouth repair kit. “The bacteria on your tongue thrive in a dry environment,” says Dr Katz. “Keep your mouth moist by drinking six to eight glasses of water daily to help replenish your saliva, which contains natural antimicrobials.”
Munching on fruit and vegetables that contain a lot of water can help keep your mouth moist and bacteria-free too, says Dr Katz. He adds: “Choose watermelon, apples, celery and cucumber.”
Cut back on coffee
Caffeine can dry out your mouth by slowing saliva production, according to dentist Dr. Mervyn Druian. He says: “If you add milk, then there’s the additional disadvantage that dairy can also encourage bacteria growth – and more smelly breath. Pair your coffee with an odour-neutralising snack such as apple slices, or a piece of fresh ginger. Or have a glass of water after your coffee – this also helps remove coffee stains from teeth.” Alternatively, switch to green tea, which can inhibit bacteria.
Avoid faddy diets
A low-carb diet can cause bad breath (or ‘ketobreath’ as it’s often nicknamed) because it increases production of odour-causing volatile sulphur compounds (VSCs) says Dr Druian. High-protein diets can have the same effect as can skipping meals (eating regularly produces saliva that flushes away bacteria from our teeth, tongue, and gums.). Dr Druian says: “Never skip a meal, especially breakfast, because VSCs build up overnight.”
“Avoid adding sugar to foods and drinks because it feeds bacteria that causes bad breath,” says Dr. Katz.
Beware of using mints and chewing gum to freshen breath for this reason – look for sugar-free versions instead.
Check out your mouthwash
You might think a quick gargle with mouthwash and a squirt of a mouth spray and you’re good to go – but avoid those containing alcohol as they can dry out the mouth and so actually make bad breath worse.
Yes to yogurt
A Japanese study showed that eating yogurt with active cultures (live yogurt) helped lower levels of hydrogen sulphide in the mouth and tongues of volunteers with halitosis.
A slightly obvious one, as no one likes puckering up with someone who tastes like an ashtray. Even if you clean regularly, tar and nicotine can build up on the teeth, tongue and cheeks and dry the mouth, leading to whiffy breath. E-cigarettes are also a no-no – the nicotine in them inhibits saliva production, leaving your mouth susceptible to bacteria build-up.
Finish a meal with a ‘detergent’ food
Finish off a meal with a natural tooth cleaner such as an apple, raw carrot, celery or unsweetened popcorn. Dr. Sameer Patel, clinical Director at Elleven Dental, says: “They’re known as ‘detergent’ foods because the rough edges act as a cleaner to remove smelly bacteria from the teeth.” (Image by Getty)