Baby's breath - or not (Photo: Hulton Archive)

    How to cure bad breath (and continue eating smelly foods)

    24 October 2014

    Have you ever tried that good old test for halitosis – licking your wrist, letting it dry, then having a good whiff – and been shocked at the result? The bad news is that mints don’t work, but here are a few tips that might succeed in making your breath smell sweeter.

    Brush your tongue As well as brushing your teeth, you need to brush your tongue, if an American study is anything to go by. Levels of smelly sulphur compounds caused by food bacteria dropped by 53% in people who brushed both teeth and tongue for a minute twice a day for a fortnight.

    Scrape your tongue Even better, according to other research, is using a tongue scraper. But the effect might only be temporary, we’re sad to say. And it does sound rather like torture…

    Drink milk Suffering from garlic breath and about to go out on a date? Don’t panic; downing a glass of milk has been found to neutralise the effect. The full-fat variety was the most effective.

    Lose weight You’re more likely to have stinky breath if you’re carrying too many extra pounds, scientists in Israel discovered. The more overweight you are, the worse the problem.

    Glug water If you drink plenty of water throughout the day, you stand a better chance of washing away the bacteria that causes halitosis. And, in case you’ve got an aversion to downing large glasses of H2O, just rinsing your mouth well between meals can also help.

    Floss This is another way of removing bacteria – and that rotten-egg smell – from your mouth. American researchers noted that people who flossed as well as brushed their teeth and tongue managed a 38% drop in bleeding gums and also experienced a reduction in halitosis.

    Chew sugarless gum The British Dental Health Foundation recommends chewing sugarless gum (the sugared version causes tooth decay) to increase saliva production. This, in turn, will help prevent a dry mouth and bad breath.

    Avoid crash diets Losing weight too fast can lead to a sweet, sickly smell on your breath. This is caused by ketones, chemicals released when fat breaks down.

    Gargle with mouthwash Different clinical trials have found that mouthwashes can make your breath sweeter. Ingredients that help include chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, chlorine dioxide, zinc chloride and triclosan, so check the label before buying. And favour alcohol-free mouthwashes, as alcohol will dry your mouth and you could end up with even worse breath.

    And if all else fails… Go to the dentist or the doctor, or possibly both. Your rank breath might be caused by gum disease, or even a gastrointestinal or chest infection.