Proven Brushing Techniques For Halitosis Prevention

  • Aniruddho KarakMSc - International Health Management, Imperial College London

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Feeling like your breath could clear a room? Don't worry, you're not alone! We've all been there, where conversations take a nosedive (pun intended) thanks to a case of the dreaded dragon breath. But fear not, brave warrior! This isn't a battle you have to fight alone.

Think of your mouth as a tiny kingdom, and those pesky bacteria are like mischievous gremlins causing havoc. They leave behind stinky byproducts, creating an unpleasant odour that wouldn't win any popularity contests. But just like a valiant knight with their trusty sword, you have your trusty toothbrush at your side!

By wielding it with the right technique and a sprinkle of brushing magic, you can banish those bad-breath bandits and leave your breath smelling fresher than a spring meadow. So, grab your toothbrush, channel your inner hero, and get ready to conquer the quest for fresh breath!

Defining halitosis

Halitosis is an oral health problem where the main symptom is bad smelling breath. In most cases, finding the cause of the bad breath is the first step toward treating this preventable condition.1

Understanding bad breath: causes and underlying issues

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be unpleasant for both the individual experiencing it and those around them. While the issue often stems from oral hygiene habits, it can also point towards underlying health concerns.1 Here's a breakdown of some common causes of bad breath:

  • Dietary choices: Certain foods, such as garlic, onions, and strong-smelling spices, are absorbed into the bloodstream and can affect breath until they are eliminated from the body1
  • Poor oral hygiene: Brushing and flossing regularly removes food debris and bacteria from your mouth. Neglecting these practices allows bacteria to thrive, leading to bad breath and potential gum disease1
  • Improper denture cleaning: Dentures require proper cleaning to prevent bacteria, fungi, and food particles from accumulating, which can contribute to bad breath1
  • Tongue bacteria: The back of the tongue harbours specific bacteria that interact with food particles, producing unpleasant sulfur compounds that cause odour1
  • Periodontal disease: This gum infection is a significant contributor to bad breath, causing an unpleasant odour and taste in the mouth. It requires professional dental care1
  • Dry mouth (Xerostomia): A decrease in saliva production hinders the mouth's natural cleansing ability, allowing debris and food particles to remain and contribute to bad breath. Dry mouth can be caused by medications, salivary gland disorders, or habitual mouth breathing1
  • Tobacco use: Tobacco products not only stain the teeth and tongue and increase the risk of various diseases, but they also contribute to bad breath. Smokers and users of smokeless tobacco are prone to bad breath, gum irritation, and a higher risk of periodontal disease and oral cancer1
  • Underlying health conditions: In some cases, bad breath can be a symptom of other health issues. These may include respiratory infections, chronic illnesses like diabetes or sinus problems, and even liver or kidney disorders. Consulting a healthcare professional is crucial for diagnosis and treatment in such cases1

By understanding these common causes and the potential link to underlying health conditions, individuals can address bad breath effectively and seek appropriate medical attention when needed.

Recognizing and diagnosing halitosis

The telltale sign: The primary symptom of halitosis is persistent bad breath that exceeds socially acceptable levels. This odour may be particularly strong upon waking up, after smoking or coffee, or after consuming certain foods like garlic.1

Diagnosis by a dentist: Dentists are often the first point of contact for diagnosing halitosis. The process typically involves:

  • History taking: This involves discussing your medical history, oral hygiene practices, diet, and any medications you're taking, as these factors can contribute to bad breath1
  • Mouth examination: The dentist will visually examine your mouth, checking for potential sources of odour, such as poor oral hygiene, tongue coating, gum disease, or infected teeth1
  • Radiological investigations: Panoramic xrays and CB CT scans can confirm of bone loss and possible periodontal disease

Seeking further evaluation

If no obvious cause is found in the mouth, your dentist might refer you to a specialist, such as a doctor, for further investigation. This is because bad breath can sometimes be a symptom of underlying health conditions like sinus problems, diabetes, or digestive issues.1

Early diagnosis matters: By recognizing the symptoms of halitosis and seeking professional evaluation, you can address the issue effectively and maintain good oral and overall health.1

Brushing up on brushing techniques: a guide for healthy teeth

Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for overall health, and proper tooth brushing technique plays a crucial role in preventing plaque buildup and gum disease.2 Here's a breakdown of some common brushing techniques, highlighting their advantages and disadvantages:

Bass technique

  • Ideal for: Adults with permanent teeth, preventing gum disease and exposed tooth surfaces
  • Method: Soft brush, angled 45 degrees against the gum line, gentle back-and-forth motion with short vibrations
  • Benefits: Effective in removing plaque below the gum line and stimulating the gums
  • Drawbacks: Can cause gum irritation with improper use, may take longer than other techniques2

 Rolling technique

  • Ideal for: Children and individuals seeking an easier approach
  • Method: Circular motions with the wrist, sweeping bristles across the tooth surfaces from top to bottom (upper teeth) and bottom to top (lower teeth)
  • Benefits: Easy to learn, effective for plaque removal on various surfaces
  • Drawbacks: Doesn't clean the gum line effectively2

Stillman technique

  • Ideal for: Individuals with gum inflammation
  • Method: Brush held at a 45-degree angle, bristles partially on the gums and teeth, short back-and-forth motions with gentle pressure
  • Benefits: Stimulates blood flow in inflamed gums, promotes healing
  • Drawbacks: Requires precise technique, may not be suitable for everyone2

Fones technique

  • Ideal for: Preschoolers developing motor skills
  • Method: Small toothbrush, circular motions on the upper and lower arches, back-and-forth motions on posterior and occlusal surfaces with gentle pressure
  • Benefits: Easy to learn, suitable for children developing motor skills
  • Drawbacks: Can cause gum irritation with excessive pressure, doesn't clean interdental areas effectively2

Horizontal technique

  • Generally not recommended: Can be harmful to teeth and gums
  • Method: Back-and-forth scrubbing motion across the tooth surfaces
  • Drawbacks: Ineffective for plaque removal, can cause abrasion and sensitivity2

Vertical technique

  • Limited use: Primarily for cleaning front teeth
  • Method: Brush held at 90 degrees to the tooth surface, vertical up-and-down strokes
  • Drawbacks: Ineffective for cleaning interdental areas and posterior teeth2

Charter technique

  • Ideal for: Individuals with specific needs like open bite, orthodontic treatment, or gum recession
  • Method: Brush tip inserted sideways at an angle into the interdental spaces, short back-and-forth vibrations
  • Benefits: Effective for cleaning interdental areas in specific cases
  • Drawbacks: Doesn't clean lingual and palatal surfaces effectively2

It's important to consult your dentist to determine the most suitable brushing technique for your individual needs. Remember, a gentle and thorough brushing technique, coupled with regular flossing and professional dental cleanings, is key to maintaining optimal oral health.

Additional advice: practical strategies for freshness

Halitosis, commonly known as bad breath, can be unpleasant for both the individual experiencing it and those around them.1 Fortunately, several effective strategies can help prevent and reduce bad breath:

Maintain a thorough oral hygiene routine

  • Brushing and flossing: Brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing once a day are crucial steps in removing food debris and bacteria that contribute to bad breath1
  • Cleaning your tongue: Most odor-causing bacteria reside on the tongue. Brushing or scraping your tongue gently with a tongue scraper or brush can significantly improve your breath1

Care for dentures properly

  • Regular cleaning: If you wear dentures, cleaning them thoroughly every night and before placing them back in your mouth is essential to prevent the buildup of bacteria and food particles that can cause bad breath1
  • Consult your dentist: Seek guidance from your dentist before using denture deodorizing sprays or tablets, as some may only offer temporary masking of the odour1

Kick the smoking habit

  • Quit smoking: Smoking is detrimental to your overall health and contributes significantly to bad breath. Quitting smoking will not only improve your breath and improve your sense of taste, but also enhance your overall well-being1

Stimulate saliva production

  • Healthy chewing: Chewing on crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots stimulates saliva flow, which naturally cleanses the mouth and helps combat bad breath1
  • Sugar-free alternatives: Sugar-free gum or candies can also be effective for increasing saliva production and freshening breath. Consult your dentist if you experience persistent dry mouth, as they may recommend artificial saliva sprays1

Regular dental checkups

  • Early detection: Regular dental checkups allow your dentist to identify and address potential causes of bad breath, such as gum disease, infections, or dry mouth1
  • Referral for further evaluation: If the cause of your bad breath remains unclear after a dental examination, your dentist may refer you to your primary healthcare provider for further investigation1

By incorporating these steps into your routine and seeking professional guidance when necessary, you can effectively combat bad breath and maintain a healthy smile.


Halitosis can be a source of embarrassment and social discomfort. However, taking the necessary steps to address and prevent this issue is well within reach. By implementing a consistent and effective oral hygiene routine, including regular brushing and flossing, tongue cleaning, and proper denture care, you can significantly reduce the risk of bad breath. Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle by quitting smoking and stimulating saliva production through dietary choices can further contribute to fresh breath.

Remember, regular dental checkups are crucial for detecting and addressing underlying medical conditions that may contribute to bad breath. If your dentist cannot identify a specific cause, they may recommend further evaluation by your primary healthcare provider. By combining a proactive approach with professional guidance, you can maintain fresh breath and promote overall oral and general health.


  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Halitosis (Bad Breath). [Internet] [updated 28 February 2020; cited 22 April 2024] Available from:
  2. Pindobilowo, et al. ‘Effective Tooth Brushing Techniques Based on Periodontal Tissue Conditions : A Narrative Review’. Formosa Journal of Applied Sciences. [Internet] 2023 [cited 22 April 2024]; 2,(7),1649–62. Available from:

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Aniruddho Karak

MSc - International Health Management, Imperial College London

Aniruddho is a former clinician displaying strong business acumen and exposure to clinical and management roles in hospitals and growing start-ups. He displays the epitome of hard work with experience in clinical writing in medical journals from several years and analytical skills from his management duties. He acquired his licence as a dental practitioner with GDC. He is always ready to give his 100% and provide beyond his duties.

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