WHAT IS BAD BREATH?
Halitosis, also known as bad breath is a tenacious, unpleasant odour in exhaled breath, experienced daily by so many people. Whilst for some, it rarely occurs, for others it is a daily problem.
For some reasons, some people may not be aware of their own halitosis and learn about it from friends, relatives or a coworker. This can therefore cause some degree of discomfort and distress.
In severe cases, bad breath can negatively affect a person's personal relationships and quality of life.
Sometimes, people feel they have bad breath, even when their breath is objectively fine.This is called "pseudo-halitosis. People with pseudo-halitosis usually respond well to reassurance, and may benefit from speaking with a therapist or psychiatrist who specializes in the issue.
WHAT CAUSES BAD BREATH?
Halitosis can originate both inside and outside the mouth, and it is caused primarily by bacteria present on the teeth and debris on the tongue. It is therefore no surprise that most halitosis cases are connected to poor oral hygiene, gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis.
You can get bad breath from many sources, including: Food. Food particles in and around the teeth can increase bacteria and cause a bad odor. Eating certain foods - such as onions, spices and garlic- can also cause it. These foods are digested by your body, enter your bloodstream, and travel to your lungs, affecting your breath.
Smoking and the use of oral tobacco cause their own unpleasant mouth odor. Smokers and tobacco users are at great risk for gum disease, another source of bad breath.
Also, if regular brushing and flossing is not done, food particles remain in the mouth, resulting in bad breath. Plaque, a colorless, sticky film formed by bacteria, can irritate the gums and eventually lead to plaque-filled pockets (periodontitis). Dentures that are not cleaned regularly or don't fit properly can also harbor odor-causing bacteria and food particles as well.
A condition called dry mouth (xerostomia) can contribute also to bad breath because body production of saliva is reduced. Saliva helps clean the mouth, removing particles that cause bad odors.
By contributing to dry mouth, some medications can also contribute to bad breath indirectly. Others can be broken down in the body to release chemicals that can contaminate the breath.
Also, oral infections can cause bad breath, such as surgical wounds following tooth removal, tooth decay, gum disease, or mouth sores.
Occasionally, bad breath can be caused by small stones in the tonsils, which are covered by bacteria that produce odor. Infections or chronic inflammation of the nose, sinuses or throat, which can cause postnasal drip, can also cause bad breath.
Other causes include certain diseases, including cancer, and conditions such as metabolic disorders which produce chemicals that cause the breath to smell bad. Chronic reflux of stomach acids (gastroesophageal reflux disease) can also cause bad breath.
HOW IS BAD BREATH TREATED?
The best way to reduce halitosis is to practice good oral hygiene. This reduces the chance of cavities and gum disease. In addition, it is recommended to visit the dentist twice a year for a checkup and cleaning.
Some other lifestyle changes and home remedies for bad breath include but are not limited to brushing the teeth and tongue, regular flossing, cleaning dentures, drinking enough water to avoid dry mouth, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and reducing intake of garlic, spices, etc.
In cases where bad breath is thought to be caused by an underlying health issue, your dentist will typically refer you to your primary care provider.