Bad Breath • Halitosis

What is Bad Breath • Halitosis

Halitosis or bad breath is the condition when breath has an unpleasant odor. Halitosis is an embarrassing social problem more than it is a dental health problem.

The problem with people who suffer from halitosis is that they don’t know it unless somebody tells them. But others who come close to them certainly know. Cleaning your teeth usually helps but it won’t always stop bad breath.

How to understand that you have a bad breath problem

  • If you notice that when you speak, people around you try to keep you at a distance or take a step back, you have a first hint of a halitosis problem.
  • Put your hands in front of your mouth and nose, and exhale.
  • Lick the back of your wrist, let it dry for a minute or two and then smell it.
  • Ask a close friend if your breath is unpleasant.
  • Ask your dentist.
  • Use a halimeter (measures the levels of volatile sulfur compounds in the breath)

Certain foods, health conditions and habits are among the causes of halitosis. Most people can stop bad breath with proper dental hygiene. If bad breath persists despite good oral hygiene, you have a chronic halitosis problem and you should visit your dentist or doctor to rule out a more serious condition that may be causing your bad breath.

The causes of halitosis / bad breath

Chronic halitosis is an oral health problem mainly caused by excessive amount of volatile sulfur compounds (thiols) that give breath its foul odor.

  • Food. Eating foods containing volatile sulfur compounds, like garlic and onions or some spices, is one of the most common causes of temporary halitosis. After these foods are digested, the sulfur compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream, they're carried to the lungs and exit from the body during exhale, causing bad breath.
  • Poor dental hygiene. Infrequent or improper brushing and flossing can leave food particles to decay inside the mouth. Their breakdown can cause a foul odor.
  • Dental problems. Periodontal disease or an abscess at the base of a tooth can be the causes of halitosis due to bacteria emitting hydrogen sulfur vapors.
  • Dry mouth (xerostomia). Saliva helps cleanse and moisten the mouth. A dry mouth enables the accumulation of dead cells on tongue, gums and cheeks. These cells then decompose and cause odor. Even for a short period of time like sleep, the reduce of saliva flow makes the mouth dry causing what is called 'morning breath'.
  • Systemic diseases. Several illnesses can cause a distinctive breath odor. Kidney failure can cause a urine-like odor and diabetes may cause a fruity breath odor. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), liver failure or lung infections also can cause bad breath. Systemic diseases and dry mouth are the most common causes of chronic halitosis.
  • Smoking is another common cause of chronic halitosis, as it dries out the mouth and causes unpleasant mouth odor.
  • Dieting and fasting may cause unpleasant "fruity" breath due to ketosis or ketoacidosis.

Prevention of Bad Breath - Halitosis treatment

If you are looking for a cure for halitosis, try the following bad breath remedies :

  • Maintain good oral hygiene. Brush properly every morning and after every meal to remove bacteria from the teeth and cure halitosis. Proper flossing, at least once a day, removes food particles and dental plaque from between the teeth.
  • Proper diet. Be careful with what you eat, avoid foods like onions and garlic.
  • Increase saliva flow. Saliva acts as nature's mouthwash by keeping the mouth moist, washing away left-over food particles and bacteria, and dissolving foul smelling volatile sulfur compounds.
  • Drink a lot of water to keep your mouth moist and stimulate saliva flow, making the mouth less hospitable to odor causing bacteria.
  • Chew sugarless gums. Chewing action helps cleanse the teeth, stimulates the flow of saliva and freshen breath.
  • Use mouthwashes containing chlorine dioxide which attack and neutralize the sulfur compounds. Conventional mouthwashes mask bad breath odor only temporarily.
  • Brush your tongue. It has been found that almost 50% of the bacteria which cause halitosis reside on the tongue. Use a soft bristled toothbrush or a special device called a tongue cleaner (or tongue scraper) to gently clean the tongue.
  • Have a dental check up every 6 months. Your dentist can diagnose other problems which cause bad breath as abscesses, periodontal disease or systemic diseases. Visit your dentist if you start to have a chronic halitosis problem.

Increased attention on diet and oral hygiene can usually be an easy cure for halitosis, but in case of a chronic halitosis problem the required bad breath treatment might be much more difficult.

The cost involved with dental treatments can be significant and many patients may not afford it if they are not covered by their dental insurance. Learn how to choose a dental insurance plan that will provide the best dental treatment to you and your family.

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