Answer: Bad breath, or halitosis, is an unpleasant and embarrassing condition. You may not realize you have it, but others will. Halitosis can be a major deal-breaker in all aspects of life: business, relationships, pleasure.
For healthy people, the major reason for bad breath is microbes on the tongue, especially the back of the tongue. Studies show that simply brushing the tongue reduces bad breath by up to 70 percent. “Morning breath,” the common name for bad breath when you wake up, is normal and affects almost everyone. Caused by increased oral bacterial growth while you sleep, it’s cured by brushing your teeth with toothpaste first thing after arising.
Causes of bad breath:
- Foods – The classic bad smells come from pungent foods like garlic and onions, etc. These foods actually contain odor-causing molecules that enter the bloodstream when digested. They then transfer to the lungs and are exhaled. Avoid these foods when bad breath is a bad idea.
- Poor oral hygiene – Food particles remaining in the mouth promote bacterial growth. Bacteria stink, which makes your breath stink. This also leads to gum disease, which creates more space for rotting food and bacteria under the gums. The end result is continually worsening breath that can’t be cured at home.
- Dental cavities and poorly fitted dental appliances also contribute to bad breath.
- Dry mouth, or xerostomia, leads to bad breath because the acids in saliva help reduce the presence of oral bacteria. It may be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems, or breathing through your mouth instead of your nose.
- Tobacco products dry the mouth, which leads to bad breath (in addition to oral cancers and stained teeth).
- Certain illnesses, such as diabetes, liver and kidney problems, chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia, contribute to bad breath as side effects.
Review your current eating habits, medications, recent surgeries, or illnesses with your dentist to find a cause of bad breath not related to your oral hygiene. In most cases, your dentist can treat halitosis. If your mouth is healthy, but bad breath remains a problem, your dentist may refer you to your physician to determine the cause of the odor and an appropriate treatment plan.
Preventing bad breath
- Practice good oral hygiene –Brush your tongue or use a scraper to clean it and reach its back areas. Replace your toothbrush every two to three months and use a UV sanitizer to destroy bacteria or leave it where the sun can dry it out. If you wear dentures or removable bridges, clean them thoroughly every night.
- See your dentist regularly, at least twice a year.
- Stop smoking or chewing tobacco – your dentist can help you break the habit.
- Drink water frequently – Water will help keep your mouth moist and wash away bacteria. Soda and coffee are not substitutes for water.
- Use mouthwashes or rinses that do more than provide a temporary solution to unpleasant odors. Your dentist can recommend antiseptic rinses that cover bad breath and eradicate germs that cause halitosis.