We all dread having bad breath (halitosis), yet it can happen to anyone.

It can be a sign of periodontal disease, tooth decay, poor overall oral hygiene or a fondness for cheeseburgers with onions.

Part of the problem is knowing that you have bad breath, because it’s typically challenging to pick up on one’s own scent. And family members, close friends and colleagues may feel uncomfortable telling you.

Here are tips on how to determine if you have bad breath:

  • Try the “cotton test.” Wipe the top surface of your tongue with a piece of cotton gauze and smell it. If there’s a foul smell and a yellowish stain on the cotton, it's likely that you have an elevated sulphide production level and bad breath
  • Lick the back of your hand, let it dry for 5-10 seconds, then smell it or run a piece of dental floss between your back teeth and smell the floss
  • Stand in front of the mirror and stick your tongue out as far as possible. If the very back of the tongue is whitish, it may be a sign that you have bad breath

However, the best way to truly identify the source of chronic bad breath is visit a dentist for a professional diagnosis. A dentist can check for gum disease, which can lead to bad breath.

Most people can reduce or eliminate bad breath by committing to the basics of good dental hygiene. Visit a dentist at least twice a year but understand that most of the work must be done at home.

There are basic, common sense ways to prevent bad breath:

  • Brush twice a day at a 45-degree angle to your gums
  • Brush or scrape your tongue
  • Floss regularly, at least once a day
  • There are certain foods that trigger bad breath (onions, fish, garlic). Consider avoiding or reduce your intake of these foods