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Bad Breath [Halitosis] – You Take My Breath Away!

Bad breath or Halitosis refers to unpleasant, disagreeable and distinct odour exhaled in breathing. A person with bad breath may not be aware of his condition as those around him might not want to hurt his feelings. Bad breath has significant impact, personally and socially, on those who suffer from it or believe they do.

Do you have bad breath? To check for bad breadth, lick the back of your hand, let it dry, and then smell it, or run dental floss between your teeth and sniff it .Most bad breath originates from bacteria in the mouth, found on the tongue surface and between the teeth. Bad breath can have range of causes which may include: mouth infection, poor dental hygiene, dry mouth, some foods and medication, habits or systematic diseases.

Mouth Infection/Poor dental hygiene: The most common cause of bad breath is food particles remaining in the mouth. This can collect bacteria and emit smelly vapours. Bad breath can also happen with periodontal (gum) disease, which gum irritation from plaque formation a sticky, colourless film of bacteria on the teeth.

Dry mouth: Besides remnant food particles in the mouth, certain drinks such as alcohol and coffee can cause a temporary odour. The types of food we eat can lead to bad breath too. Examples include foods like onion, garlic, etc. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the oils get carried to the lungs to produce bad breath. It can take up to 72 hours the smell goes away.

Systematic Diseases : Examples include discharge due to infections of the respiratory system, diabetes, metabolic disorders, kidney/liver disease and acid reflux. Certain medications may also cause bad breath.

Smoking: Tobacco smoking dries out the mouth resulting in stale breath. The risk of gum disease also increases with smoking which can, again, lead to bad breath.

Dieting and fasting: Low carbohydrate diets lead to ketosis- the breakdown of fats for energy in the absence of carbohydrates. The release of ketones gives birth to fruity smell. When fasting, the release of digestive juices in the stomach can also cause odour. Salivary flow also reduces , causing dry mouth.

Key points towards control of bad breath important
  • See your Dentist at least every 6 months for regular dental check-ups. Also do your part by brushing your teeth at least twice a day with toothpaste. Change your toothbrush every two to three months or when the bristles wear out. Dental floss or interdental brushes are useful for cleaning between the teeth while antiseptic mouthwash at night before sleeping. Use a tongue scraper or brush the tongue with a toothbrush.
  • Take your dentures out after every meal and clean them; also rinse your mouth. Food particles often get trapped underneath the dentures. Do not wear your dentures to sleep; remove and clean them with water, hypochlorite or chlorhexidine. Ask your dentist.
  • Chew sugarless mints to stimulate saliva production to prevent dry mouth. Herbs and spices like parsley , cloves (pepri) , anise (nketinketi) cinnamon sticks and fennel seeds are also helpful.
  • Drink water to keep your mouth moist. Swish it in your mouth to dislodge food particles between your teeth or from crevices.
  • Include carbohydrates in your diet to avoid ‘Ketone’ breath. Cut down on foods that give strong smell.
  • Avoid habits that may worsen breath odour such as alcohol and tobacco.
  • Eat good breakfast and take regular meals including fresh fruits; an enzyme in pineapple (papain) helps clean the mouth.
  • Avoid having empty stomach for long hours. If you need snacks meals, choose healthier snacks like fruits. Carrots and celery sticks. Avoid sugary snack which will increase the bacteria count in the mouth.

  • Treatment

    Bad breath may be a sign of certain medical conditions so it is always best to consult a dentist if the condition persists despite all the remedies mentioned earlier.