Click here to print this page

Planning Retirement Online


December 2013


Bad breath is a surprisingly common problem and it really isn’t pleasant.  Often you can be unaware you suffer from oral malodour or halitosis, as it can be officially called, and your friends and even your family may be a little reluctant or embarrassed to tell you.

There is a test that suggests you lick the inside or your wrist, let it dry and then smell it. If it has an unpleasant smell, then you may have bad breath, but this isn’t a totally reliable test.

The main way to find out if you suffer from bad breath is to ask your dentist on your next check up.  For people within reach of central London, there is also a Fresh Breath Centre, an advanced facility which can clinically measure, diagnose and treat bad breath. This was founded by Dr Phil Stemmer and Professor Mel Rosenberg who is a recognised international authority on breath odour.

Dr Stemmer told Laterlife that bad breath is almost always caused by the build up of excess bacteria in the mouth. This gives off smelly gases, hence the bad breath.  Dr Stemmer says there are many misconceptions about bad breath and it is not usually caused by constipation, tonsil problems, or gastro-intestinal problems.

It seems that generally bad breath is usually associated with gum disease or gingivitis; people who suffer from gum disease have four times the chance of suffering from bad breath than people who don’t.

Sometimes people can suffer a level of bad breath when they wake up in the morning. This is because the mouth can get dry overnight and a dry mouth not washed by saliva can stagnate causing unpleasant odours which disappear as soon as the saliva gets going again.

Smoking can be the cause of bad breath, but mainly because it can contribute towards gum disease.

Certain foods can contribute towards the problem - most people have come into contact with the breath of people who have been eating garlic, spicy foods or certain alcoholic drinks.  Some medicines also can contribute towards bad breath, including some chemotherapy drugs and nitrites. But with these problems, the solution can be straightforward; either avoid the food or drink in question or see if you can change the medication.

But in by far the majority of cases bad breath is caused by poor oral hygiene that leads up to the build up of excess bacteria in the mouth which gives off smelly gases.

When normal teeth brushing doesn’t clear out all the tiny bits of food which can get stuck between teeth, this food can rot and become riddled with bacteria, giving off gasses that cause bad breath.

Plaque is another problem associated with mouth hygiene. This soft whitish deposit forms on the surface of the teeth and is caused when bacteria combines with food and saliva.

Poor oral hygiene isn’t always the cause though. Sometimes a coating can develop on the back of the tongue. This can be from mucus that drips down from the back of the nose or other causes and this coating can contain many bacteria, causing bad breath.

There is even a rare medical condition called fish odour syndrome or trimethylaminuria, which can cause breath and also body odour to smell a bit...well, fishy.  This occurs because the body has a reduced ability to breakdown trimethylamine found in certain foods.

Usually your dentist can advise on the state of your gums and teeth and possible actions to take to remedy the problem.  A mouthwash can held because most contain chemicals to kill or neutralise the bacteria or chemicals that cause bad breath.

If a coating on the back of the tongue could be the problem, you can clean the back of your tongue with a soft toothbrush dipped in mouthwash or with a special plastic tongue scraper available from most chemists.

Chewing gum might help because it increases the flow of saliva which helps flush the mouth clean of any debris remaining after a meal.

If you know you suffer from bad breath and have improved your dental hygiene, then you may need to consult your dentist or GP to investigate further. Occasionally bad breath can be associated with various medical problems such as chronic infection of the throat, sinuses or lungs, or stomach problems such as reflux or a hiatus hernia.


Back to Health Section



    Keep in touch with everything happening in Laterlife Today!

    Subscribe to our free monthly email newsletters for the latest articles, offers and events. You can unsubscribe at any time should you want to.



Bookmark This Share on Facebook Receive more like this

feeling Good

Feeling Good

The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

It includes both one off articles and also associated regular columns of a more specialist nature such as Healthwise, Gardener's Diary, our regular IT question and answer section called YoucandoIT and there's also 'It could be you' by Maggi Stamp laterlife's counsellor on human relationships. 

Looking to the future

Looking to the future

Tell us about what you would like to see here on in the future or any changes you would like to see. Just email

Latest articles

To view the latest articles click on laterlife interest index. To search for articles about a certain topic, use the site search feature at the top right of the page.
Back to Laterlife Today

Visit our Pre-retirement Courses section here on laterlife or our dedicated Retirement Courses site


Advertise on

LaterLife Travel Insurance in Association with Avanti