Halitosis, commonly called bad breath, is a
condition that can be both unpleasant and embarrassing. Sometimes, you may not
even realize you have it. But everyone gets it, most frequently for many people
in the morning.
There are a number of reasons you may have bad
breath. In most healthy people, however, the most common reason is microbes on
the tongue, especially at the back of the tongue where many people don’t clean.
Studies have indicated that just brushing the tongue can reduce halitosis by up
to 70 percent.
What can cause bad breath?
Bad breath can be caused by a number of
- Sleep. You experience very little salvia flow
during sleep so there’s little cleaning action in your mouth during the night,
allowing bacteria to grow.
- Foods. Garlic and onion are the most common foods
containing odor-causing compounds that can get into the bloodstream, then go to
the lungs and be exhaled.
- Bad oral hygiene. Food particles that stay in the
mouth after eating can cause the growth of odor-causing bacteria.
- Gum disease. Bacteria and debris present under an
inflamed gum line can cause bad breath.
- Cavities, bridges and dentures. Dental work that
doesn’t fit or is going bad can lead to mouth odor.
- Dry mouth. Called zerostomia, this can be caused
by breathing through the mouth, some medications or salivary gland issues.
- Tobacco use. Using tobacco dries the mouth, and
tobacco also has an odor of its own.
- Dieting. Chemicals called ketones are released
into the breath as body fat is burned.
- Hunger or dehydration. Drinking and chewing
increase the flow of saliva that helps wash bacteria away.
- Illnesses or medical conditions. Everything from
a sinus infection, bronchitis and pneumonia to diabetes and liver or kidney
disease can contribute to bad breath.
To help you identify the cause of your bad
breath, you may want to keep a record of what you have to eat and review your
medications, illnesses and other details with your dentists.
Can I do anything to prevent bad breath?
The first and best defense is good oral hygiene.
Brush and then floss twice per day, making sure to floss to remove food debris
and plaque between teeth and below the gum line. Also, brush your tongue or use
a tongue scraper. Change to a new toothbrush at least every three months. If
you have removable bridges or dentures, clean them carefully.
You can also take the following actions to help
prevent bad breath:
- See a dentist. Having a checkup and cleaning
twice per year can eliminate conditions that lead to bad breath and keep
periodontal disease in check.
- Stop using tobacco. Chewing tobacco or smoking is
a habit you need to break, and the dentist can recommend ways to do that.
- Drink more water. This simple act keeps your
mouth moist while washing away bacteria too.
- Use mouthwash. While many over-the-counter
products offer only a temporary solution that masks bad breath, a dentist can
provide antiseptic products that kill the germs that cause halitosis.
A dentist may also be able to offer other
solutions for bad breath. When your mouth is healthy but you still have bad
breath, your dentist may refer you to a doctor to see if the cause of your bad
breath is a medical problem.