Bad breath, also known as halitosis or chronic bad breath is a medical condition in which people experience an unattractive odor emanating from their mouths. Halitosis (bad breath) is a medical condition, it's not the every day's morning bad breath that you wake up with nor is it the couple minutes of bad breath that you experience after having spicy meals. Halitosis can be an embarrassing and often demoralizing condition for the people who experience it. A person experiences chronic bad breath when the odor keeps lingering and does not disappear after a few minutes or even after brushing or rinsing the mouth. It is a fairly common disease that can trouble anyone at any age and is quite ignominious for people who have it. More than 80 million people endure chronic bad breath.
It's a common misconception that bad breath is only caused by not maintaining proper oral hygiene. True as that may be, bad oral hygiene is merely one of the various reasons that cause this undesirable medical condition. You could very well be a person who brushes her (or his) teeth twice or maybe even thrice a day, rinse your mouth with mouthwash after every meal and floss regularly but you could still be affected by Halitosis. Following are the causes of bad breath.
Bad breath can be caused by certain medical conditions. In xerostomia (commonly known as dry mouth), the composition and flow of saliva can be affected. The lack of saliva can cause bacteria (more than normal) to build up in your mouth. It can also cause a change in the types of bacteria. An accumulation of these in the mouth may lead to bad breath. Dry mouth can often be caused by a problem in your salivary glands or by breathing through the mouth instead of your nose.
In certain cases, the conditions related to stomach and the intestines (gastrointestinal conditions) may also cause bad breath. For instance, an infection in your small intestine or an infection of the stomach lining and GORD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease), a common condition in which acid from the stomach leaks up into your food pipe may cause Halitosis.
Other medical conditions that may cause you to experience bad breath include diabetes and throat, lung, or nose infections such as, tonsillitis, bronchitis, and sinusitis.
Yes, there might be certain medications that you're taking which cause you to have bad breath. While some medications may indirectly make your mouth smell by contributing to dry mouth, some can be broken down in your body to release certain chemicals that can be carried on your breath, therefore, making your breath smell bad.
The types of medication that cause Halitosis are the ones that include nitrates (these medicines are mainly used to treat the chest pain that is caused by a restriction in the blood supply to the heart). Some chemotherapy medication and tranquilizers may also lead to bad breath.
If you feel that the medication that you are taking is the reason why you may be experiencing bad breath or you are unsure whether your bad breath is being caused by any medicines, then you should refer to your physician and ask her (or him) to recommend some better alternative.
The primary source, which leads to undiagnosed gum disease, is often the bacteria that causes bad smell. Unhealthy gums prove to be a medium for these odor-causing bacteria to reproduce and multiply. A likely culprit of halitosis is gingivitis (gum inflammation or a kind of gum disease that causes irritation, redness and swelling in your gums), which if not treated on time can advance to periodontal gum disease. Bacteria from bad gums migrate to other parts of your mouth, including the tongue, which is believed to be the main reason behind 90 percent of all cases of bad breath.
Bad breath can also be caused by surgical wounds after you undergo an oral surgery, for instance, tooth removal, or may occur as a result of tooth decay, mouth sores or gum disease.
Smoking is another major cause of bad breath. People who smoke are likely to form a typical odor emanating from their mouths which is known as smoker's breath.
The most direct way that cigarettes cause bad breath is by leaving smoke residue or particles in your throat and lungs. This effect is common for nearly any tobacco product that requires inhaling smoke or rolling it around in the mouth. The smell that stays for some time after smoking a cigarette can linger in your lungs for hours, hence the stale scent is associated with smoker's breath.
The chemicals present in tobacco smoke can remain in your mouth, which further lead to a host of secondary causes of bad breath. Apart from making your breath smell bad, smoking causes irritation in the gums, stains your teeth, and causes a reduction in the sense of taste.
It can also have a significant effect on the development of gum disease which is another vital cause of bad breath.
Diets that contain low carbohydrate, fasting and crash diets are other possible cause of bad breath. The form of diets that cause your body to break down fat produces chemicals known as ketones that can make your breath smell bad.
Strong flavoured foods, such as onions, garlic, and spices, are likely to make your breath smell bad. Similarly, strong smelling drinks, like alcohol, tea, and coffee, also contribute to bad breath.
The bad odor caused due to food and drink is usually temporary and can be circumvented by not eating or drinking this type of food and drinks often.
Lastly, let's see how poor oral hygiene contributes to Halitosis. Poor oral hygiene is one of the most common causes of bad breath. Unpleasant smelling gasses are produced by the bacteria that gets build up on your teeth (particularly between them) as well as the gums & tongue. If you don't brush your teeth properly and daily then a colorless, sticky film of bacteria (known as plaque) forms on your teeth. The food stuck between the teeth is broken down by the bacteria and could be responsible for bad breath. Bacteria can also survive on the rough surface of your tongue and can also be responsible for gum disease as well as tooth decay.
Treatment of halitosis mainly depends on its cause and the most effective treatment of getting rid of bad breath is by improving your dental hygiene. Good dental hygiene can help curb your vulnerability to halitosis. As part of the daily routine, brushing teeth and gums twice a day (using fluoride toothpaste), cleaning the tongue and flossing between teeth is indispensable. You can start by choosing a medium sized or small toothbrush with soft, multi-tufted synthetic bristles and brush your teeth for at least two minutes. Change your toothbrush after every two to three months. Buy a toothbrush which has tongue cleaner behind it, or buy a separate tongue cleaner and clean your tongue regularly.
Going for dental check-ups regularly will ensure that any plaque residue and calculus has been removed from your teeth, particularly, in areas that are difficult for you (or your brush) to reach manually. Better yet, your dentist can suggest the best way to clean the teeth and gums, and point out important areas which you might be missing. Your dentist can identify any early signs of gum disease and ensure its early treatment.
The treatment that will be recommended for bad breath caused by gastrointestinal diseases depends on the kind of gastrointestinal condition you have. Halitosis caused by gastrointestinal problems, like gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) or an H. pylori infection one should be referred to a gastroenterologist rather than a dentist.
You can successfully prevent bad breath by keeping track of a few simple things.
If you think you might be prone to bad breath then keep a separate toothbrush at work to use after eating. It seems a bit much, to be honest, but it really can help prevent Halitosis. As mentioned above, prefer using a fluoride containing toothpaste at least twice a day (especially after meals). Toothpastes with antibacterial properties have shown to reduce bad odors.
Proper flossing removes plaque and food particles from between your teeth, assisting in controlling bad breath. You now know that the tongue harbors bacteria, so carefully cleaning it may help reduce odors. People who have a coated tongue from a consequential overgrowth of bacteria (could be from smoking or dry mouth) may benefit from using a tongue cleaner regularly.
If you wear a denture or a bridge, you must clean it thoroughly at least once a day or as suggested by your dentist. If you have a mouth guard or dental retainer, remember to clean it each time before you put it in your mouth. Do not use toothpaste to clean your dentures, it can scratch the surface and cause stains. Try cleaning your dentures using soap and lukewarm water, a denture cleaning tablet or denture cream. Your dentist will recommend the best cleaning product.
To avoid dry mouth you must avoid tobacco and drink lots of water. Keep in mind that coffee, alcohol, and soft drinks can lead to a drier mouth and also aid in bad breath. Chew on sugar-free gum or suck on candy (also, preferably sugarless) to stimulate saliva. For chronic dry mouth condition, your physician or dentist could prescribe an oral medication or an artificial saliva preparation that stimulates the flow of saliva in your mouth.
Mouthwash does a really good job in killing the bacteria that causes bad breath, but if it contains a high alcohol content, it can affect negatively and cause your mouth to dry and actually cause bad bacteria to grow. Look for a mouthwash that is free of alcohol, there are plenty available on markets or online stores. Also choose a mouthwash which contains ingredients like menthol, eucalyptol or thymol. Also, wait for ten to fifteen minutes after brushing and then rinse your mouth with it so the mouthwash will be more effective.
See your dentist on a regular basis, once in every six months, to have your gums and teeth or dentures cleaned and examined. If you feel like you might be affected with Halitosis then it's important to figure out where the odor is coming from (basically, its cause) and whether it is due to a dental problem or medical condition. Since you know now that bacteria can live in the deep pockets below your gum line, your dentist can make sure whether you are brushing and flossing properly.
Try to avoid foods that cause bad breath such as onions and garlic. Eating excess of sugary food is also linked with bad breath. Instead, prefer eating foods that are rich in fiber. High fiber foods can actually help prevent halitosis. Avoid consuming heavily processed foods that contain refined carbohydrates, for instance, things like cookies, sweets, cakes and ice cream.
Hi! I’m Gunjan, a self-proclaimed tea fanatic and intrigued with alternative ways to lead a healthy life. I firmly believe that we should take care of our bodies because it’s the only place we live in.