Halitosis: Cause and Management

Halitosis, commonly known as bad breath, is an embarrassing condition that can significantly lower your self-esteem. More often, people with bad breath don’t even know it unless someone told him/her about it.

There are several factors and causes of bad breath and occasionally, even healthy people experience bad breath. Here are some common causes of bad breath:

  • Food: Certain food such as garlic, onion, spices (e.g. curry), some cheese, and coffee can cause short-lived halitosis. Also, food may get stuck in the teeth which promotes bacterial growth and in turn causes bad breath.
  • Tobacco/Cigarette products: Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco leaves a very unpleasant odor. In addition, smoking can cause gum disease which produces bad breath.
  • Poor oral hygiene: Failure to brush teeth and floss significantly causes bad breath due to non-removal of food particles trapped in between teeth. Moreover, dentures should also be cleaned daily to remove bacteria attached to the prosthesis.
  • Dry mouth: Saliva helps to clean the oral cavity by flushing away bacteria and food particles. If there is insufficient amount of saliva, the oral cavity became an ideal area for bacterial growth which causes bad breath. Certain medications and medical problems can cause dry mouth or medically known as xerostomia.
  • Infections in the mouth: Bad breath can be experienced after an oral surgery such as tooth removal. Other infections in the mouth such as gum disease, cavities, and mouth sores can cause bad breath.
  • Diseases and Medications: Diseases, such as cancer, and certain medications can cause bad breath. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is also associated with bad breath.
  • “Morning Breath”: It is very common to experience bad breath every time we wake up in the morning. During sleep, amount of saliva decreases allowing odor-causing bacteria to grow and cause bad breath.

Management of Halitosis

  • Brush and floss teeth regularly; especially the tongue.
  • See your dentist regularly to ensure the proper fit of your dentures and braces
  • If you have periodontal disease, you may see a periodontist – someone who specializes in treating gum disease.
  • If you have braces, your orthodontist might suggest that you use adjunct cleaning equipment such as WaterPik or interdental brush.
  • Quit smoking
  • Chew sugar-less gum to prevent drying of mouth
  • Keep hydrated by drinking a lot of water a day

In most cases, good oral hygiene (proper toothbrushing and flossing) can suffice to avoid having bad breath. If proper oral hygiene does not get rid of bad breath, see a dentist or doctor to further diagnose what may be causing bad breath.

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