2 July 2015

Missing breakfast has been identified as one of the most common causes of bad breath within teenagers, according to a new report.

New research published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene has shown evidence that teens were almost twice as likely to suffer from bad breath when they skip breakfast.1

The study found that almost a fifth of the participants questioned admitted that they had missed breakfast and of these one in three (36 per cent) suffered with bad breath. This was significantly more than those who had eaten breakfast.

Interestingly, only about half of those who presented with bad breath were conscious that they were suffering from it. Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, believes the findings could help to have a positive effect on teenager's personal development.

"This study is very interesting as bad breath is a common problem throughout the world. Breakfast has always been widely labelled as ‘the most important meal of the day' and the effect of skipping it has long been known to be detrimental to people's diets. But now there is another reason not to miss breakfast which can have a real positive impact on people's lives.

"Young people who suffer from bad breath may find that it has a significant impact on their ability to have normal social interactions as they go through one of the most defining times of their lives. This has the potential to impact their personal development and those who experience this social rejection may exhibit low self-esteem. By being aware of the causes of bad breath it gives people the ability to do something about it."

The research also revealed that not cleaning the tongue thoroughly was another major factor in a person developing bad breath.

Persistent bad breath is usually caused by the smelly gases released by the bacteria that coat the teeth, gums and tongue. But bad breath may also be a signifier of an underlying condition including infections in the throat, nose or lungs; sinusitis; bronchitis; diabetes; or liver or kidney problems.

"Introducing an oral health education program which incorporates bad breath as a motivational tool may be beneficial in triggering teenagers into better oral health behaviour," Dr Carter adds.

"We probably all know someone who has bad breath, but very few people feel brave enough to discuss the problem. It is obviously a very delicate matter to tell someone they have bad breath. "There is always the risk that they will be offended or embarrassed and may never speak to you again! However, once a person knows they have bad breath, they can get to the bottom of the problem and deal with whatever is causing it.

"As the study shows people are unaware they have bad breath. People may well try the 'lick and sniff' test to see if their breath smells. Simply lick the inside of your wrist, leave it to dry for a few seconds and then sniff. If the smell is unpleasant the chances are your breath is too."

Apart from having a healthy breakfast which is low in sugar, the British Dental Health Foundation can advise you on many simple ways people can avoid bad breath. Our top three tips are:

  1. Ensure you brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time every day with fluoride toothpaste and ensure you clean your tongue properly with your toothbrush or a tongue scraper to remove all harmful bacteria.
  2. Clean in between your teeth with ‘interdental' brushes or floss at least once a day as brushing alone only cleans up to about 60 percent of the surface of your teeth.
  3. Visit a dentist regularly, as often as the dentist recommends. A dentist will be able to spot any potential oral health problems in their early stages, and will give you advice on how to tackle them.


1. RANI H et al (2015) ‘Oral malodour among adolescents and its association with health behaviour and oral health status', International Journal of Dental Hygiene, 2015