Bad breath, known medically as halitosis, is the existence of a bad smell coming from a person’s mouth. It is very common and can usually be ascribed to the accumulation of bacteria in the mouth as a result of gum disease, food, or plaque. While simple, improved dental hygiene should resolve most cases, a physician or dentist can help with more severe cases.
Experts believe that 90% of bad breath is caused by poor dental hygiene. Pieces of food that remain in the mouth after eating are slowly broken down by bacteria that naturally exist in our mouths – a smelly process that involves the release of hydrogen sulfide, a compound usually associated with rotting eggs. In addition, plaque accumulation on the teeth can lead to gum disease or tooth decay, which can also cause a bad smell.
Bad breath can also happen when one’s mouth is extremely dry, and a lack of saliva allows dead cells to accumulate in the mouth, which then start to rot and emit a stench. This same condition leads to what many people know as “morning breath,” a case of bad breath upon waking up, after a night of one’s mouth becoming dry. Bad breath has also been associated with certain foods and medications as well as smoking. Certain illnesses also lead to side-effects of bad breath. These include tonsillitis and other infections, diabetes, sinusitis, acid reflux and cancer.
What are the treatments?
The best way to fight bad breath is to prevent it, by practicing good dental hygiene: brushing, flossing and rinsing of the teeth/mouth. Most dentists advise patients to brush their teeth at least twice a day, preferably after meals, using a fluoride-containing toothpaste. Flossing one’s teeth will also help fight the buildup of food particles and plaque.
Severe or ongoing cases of bad breath might be caused by an underlying health condition, which should be addressed with a dentist or doctor.
Many cases of bad breath can be improved using commercial mouth rinses and toothpastes that kill smelly bacteria and prevent production of odors that cause bad breath.
People who wear dentures should make sure to remove them every night and clean them thoroughly with soap and warm water, or a denture cream.
Chewing and drinking teas made with parsley, lemon, cloves, and fennel reportedly help alleviate bad breath. In addition, eating more probiotics could help resolve any gastrointestinal causes of halitosis.
Do you have questions about bad breath? Can you recommend treatments that have worked for you? Let us know in the comments below…