Bad Breath (Halitosis)

By Kevin Siao

Causes and tips for managing halitosis :

Bad Breath- We've all had it at one time or another. Its embarrassing. Is there anything we can do to keep breath odor at bay? Knowing what causes bad breath can help avoid the embarrassment.

Bad breath Triggers

Halitosis, or bad breath, most often starts in the mouth. Poor oral hygiene allows food particles to collect on surfaces of the tongue, between teeth or along the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth. Naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth then break down those food particles, releasing chemicals that have a strong odor.

Saliva helps wash food particles from your mouth, thus , people with dry mouth are at increasing risk of experiencing bad breath. Some medications, mouth breathing and smoking, all can contribute to dry mouth.

Infections in the mouth, such as dental caries (tooth decay), periodontal disease, or mouth sores related to other conditions may contribute to bad breath. Surgical wounds (from extracted teeth) can also be a source of halitosis.

The bacterial film called "plaque" that occurs naturally in your mouth can build up if not removed regularly through good oral hygiene practices. The bacteria in plaque can give off odor that affects your breath.

Diet is a common bad breath culprit. Foods such a garlic and onions, in particular, can foul your breath. Once your food is digested, chemicals that cause odor can be absorbed into your bloodstream and from there into your lungs; these chemicals are then exhaled. Diets high in protein and sugars also have been associated with bad breath.

Bad breath can be a by-product of certain health conditions. It may result from infection in the nose, throat, lungs, chronic sinusitis, post nasal drip, chronic bronchitis; or disturbances in your digestive system.

Fending off Bad breath

Knowing the cause is half the battle in fighting bad breath, and the best weapon you have is good oral hygiene. Caring for your mouth will help limit food residue build up and reduce the risk of developing caries and periodontal disease.

The American Dental recommends that you brush teeth twice a day and clean between teeth once a day using interdental cleaner such as floss. Brush your tongue too, to remove bacteria that contribute to oral odors (especially in the back, where most of these bacteria are found). If you wear removable dentures, take them out at night and brush them thoroughly with a denture cleaner before replacing them the next morning. When choosing oral health products, look for those that display the ADA Seal of Acceptance, your assurance that they have met ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness.

If your problem seems to stem from dry mouth, consider chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candies to stimulate salivary flow. There are also artificial salivas on the market that may help.

Above all, talk to your dentist about your concerns. A thorough health history, including a list of medications and supplements you are taking, may be helpful in determining whether the cause of your bad breath is localized to the mouth or might be a systemic condition , in which case a physician should be consulted. If your breath problems stems from an oral cause, your dentist can work with you to develop a treatment plan that minimizes odor. This might include scrapping the plaque off your teeth and tongue, using a special antibacterial mouth rinse or both.