Bad breath, or halitosis as it is known medically, is a very common problem. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, 80 million people suffer from chronic bad breath. However, finding a cure for this embarrassing and annoying condition is quite possible – if you know what causes it.
For some, the solution lies in changing what they eat. Certain foods, such as garlic or onions, contribute to pungent breath because after they are digested, odor-causing compounds travel through the bloodstream and are then released through the lungs. If these foods aren’t eaten then there won’t be any bad breath.
Yet other cases of bad breath are due to poor oral hygiene. When food particles are trapped between the teeth, bacteria start to break them down releasing noxious odors. While regular brushing is a good start on preventing this type of bad breath, it is also important to floss, use mouthwash (those containing chlorine dioxide are a good choice) and even brush the tongue. The tongue is often a surprising source of bacteria-induced odor and regular usage of a tongue scraper can make a big difference in how fresh a person’s breath is. Regular visits to the dentist to detect and prevent gum disease are also important.
If poor dental hygiene has been a problem for awhile, it is especially important to see a dentist. Bad breath is a possible warning sign of gum disease. Gum disease occurs when plaque builds up on the teeth due to poor cleaning habits. Bacteria in the mouth cause toxins to form, irritating the gums. If this irritation is allowed to continue, it damages the gums and causes them to pull away from the teeth, allowing the teeth to become loose.
Yeast infection, tooth decay and badly-fitting dental appliances are also potential cause of bad breath which should be evaluated by a dentist.
Another common source of bad breath are tobacco products such as chewing tobacco and cigarettes. Unfortunately the only way to deal with this type of bad breath is break the tobacco habit. In addition to causing bad breath, tobacco also creates other mouth issues such as stained teeth, reduced ability to taste foods and gum irritation.
If none of these steps take care of the problem, it is advisable to see your personal physician for advice. Certain medicines and medical conditions are often associated with bad breath. For example, drugs which cause dry mouth can leave people more prone to unpleasant mouth odor. In addition, bad breath can be caused by problems that have nothing to do with the mouth. Chronic sinus, lung and throat infections are one potential source of odor. Also, stomach problems like acid reflux and hiatal hernia, which cause regurgitation of food, can cause problems. Very infrequently, a nasal polyp or a tumor in the throat can also be a source of bad breath. People should keep in mind, however, that medical causes of bad breath are not the norm so it is wise to first try to correct the more mundane causes of breath odor problems such as improper dental care and diet.
By Nancy Schimelpfening