Nobody likes to hear this, but it’s worse not to know it: You have BAD BREATH.

A stinky breath that could peel paint is not only embarrassing, it can ruin relationships and careers. And if you think that only other people get halitosis – a.k.a a persistent bout of bad breath – hear this: Up to 85% of people suffer from it at some time or another. And you could be one of them!

Often, the person who has bad breath does not realise it,” says Dr Asha Karen, from Smile Makers Dental Clinic.

If you notice others backing away from you during a conversation and suspect it could be your over generous splash of cologne, try taking a sniff of your oral scent instead. Cup your hands over your mouth while breathing out. Then move your hands over your nose… and breathe in.

Feel like puking? Don’t panic. Read on and you’ll be kissing lonely nights and that whiffy breath goodbye in a jiffy.



Mints and mouth rinses merely mask the evil smell temporarily. The first and most crucial step to combat chronic bad breath is to identify and uproot the underlying cause(s).

While it’s common knowledge that strong-smelling foods (like garlic and durian) and inadequate brushing or flossing can lead to a malodorous breath, surprising breath saboteurs lurk in the depths of your oral cavity, and way beyond.  Here’s a checklist on putrid culprits you might be missing and their fresh solutions.


Excessive Coffee and Health Supplements: Besides staining your smile, coffee is a common diuretic. Saliva is necessary to moisten and clean the mouth by washing away germs and dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheeks. The extra cuppa and large amounts of oral health supplements can dehydrate your body and mouth, promoting bacterial growth and hence, your daily “grind” of garbage breath.

Solution: The caffeine kick coffee provides makes it the number one addiction worldwide, and it’s become fashionable to pop vitamins. To reduce the bad breath effects – amongst many other reasons – limit the amount of Java and avoid overzealous supplementation. Remember to keep your body and mouth well-hydrated throughout the day to help keep your breath fresh and system healthy. Following each sip of coffee with a sip of water will also wash away the coffee stains and acids that’ll destroy your pearlies.


Skimping on Carbs: Despite its bad reputation, carbs ain’t all bad. In fact, it may just be the thing you need to attain a fresher breath. When the body doesn’t get enough carbohydrates to burn for energy, it switches to “starvation mode” and relies on fat for fuel – a metabolic process called “ketosis”. Ketones released through lungs cause your breath to be reminiscent of stale, decomposed food.

Solution: Extreme low-carb fad diets that push your body into a ketogenic state still has debatable weight-loss benefits and long-term safety concerns to start off with. Opt for a balanced diet with high-fibre, low glycaemic-index starches (think brown rice, wholegrains, quinoa) for a healthier, slimmer and better-breathed you.


Snoring or Sleeping on Your Back: Saliva production naturally slows down in sleep, and the mouth gets further dried out in mouth-breathers. Hence, mouth-breathers – for example due to blocked nose, obstructive sleep apnea with snoring, or sleeping on your back (gravity pulls your jaw downward and tongue backward, causing you to breath through the mouth and swallow less) – tend to have worse “morning breath” and often experience poorer quality of sleep as well.

Solution: Causes of chronic airway obstruction such as a deviated nasal septum or obstructive sleep apnea should be properly evaluated and treated by your doctor. If you have no other airway issues but simply can’t change your sleeping habit to lying on your side, seeing your dentist for a mouth guard might help you with your stinky breath and snoring problems.


Not Giving Your Gums and Tongue Enough TLC: Like the skin, your gums and tongue need regular exfoliation and hydration to stay clean and healthy. Inadequate daily flossing can lead to red inflamed gums and a stinky mouth.

Solution: About 85 percent of the bad breath bacteria live on your tongue. Don’t neglect to brush your tongue everyday, on top of brushing and flossing your teeth and gums. And remember to toss your toothbrush once the bristles start to fray to ensure effective cleansing, and also to prevent your hygiene tools from turning into bacteria-breeding grounds instead.

We know you know this, but you really have to see your dentist for regular thorough cleansing or “scaling and polishing” to remove hardened films of bacterial fortresses, commonly known as plaques, as these cannot be brushed away.


Not Getting Your Braces or Dental Implants: Gaps between your gnashers or missing teeth form nooks that trap tiny food particles you can’t feel. These create perfect bacteria-breeding grounds as bugs thrive on your “leftovers”, hence emitting an offensive odour while causing gum disease and tooth decay.

Solution: It’s never too late to work on the widely-spaced teeth, straighten and perfect your smile. But if metal braces put you off, consider the latest clear aligners, Invisalign. Dental implants and crowns can close up spaces left by missing teeth to prevent bacteria from settling in and also provide support to maintain a more youthful face.


Health Issues: Apart from dental issues, problems in other body systems such as chronic sinusitis, gastric dysfunction and bowel obstruction can result in a foul-smelling breath too.

Solutions: These conditions need to be managed by your doctor.


– By Gene Yeo


With contributions from Dr Asha Karan, from Smile Makers Dental Clinic.