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Understanding Bad Breath - Causes and Treatment

Bad breath, or halitosis as it is technically named, is something we have all experienced at some point in our lives. In most cases, it can leave individuals feeling self-conscious or embarrassed.

 

So, what really is halitosis?

Our mouths are full of bacteria - in fact, most people carry around 34 to 72 different varieties. These bacteria can accumulate on and in between your teeth, as well as your gums and tongue, often producing unfriendly smelling gases. These bacteria are attracted to rough surfaces, and can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease (periodontal disease).

Commonly, the reason for bad breath (halitosis) is inadequate or poor oral hygiene; however, there can be other contributing factors or causes.

 

Common Causes of Bad Breath

Oral Hygiene: Poor oral hygiene is the main cause of halitosis. Failure to brush your teeth and tongue twice a day and skipping your daily floss can lead to the increase of bacteria build up in your mouth.

Diet: Be aware of the type of foods you eat. Strongly flavoured foods like spices, onions, eggs and dairy products and drinks such as coffee and alcohol are more likely to make your breath smell. Normally though, this type of bad breath is only temporary.

Smoking: Not only is this habit strongly associated with bad breath, it also stains your teeth, irritates your gums and considerably increases the advancement of gum, periodontal disease and oral cancers.

Dieting: Low carbohydrates, fasting and crash dieting can cause the body to break down and release fat from cells, creating chemicals called ketones which can be smelt on your breath.

Medications: As some medications break down in the body they can release chemicals that can be carried on your breath. These medications can also inhibit the production of saliva causing dry mouth.

Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions such as dry mouth (Xerostomia), gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes and nose/lung/throat infections can also be contributing factors to bad breath.

There is also a condition called Halitophobia, which is a psychological condition where a person believes they have bad breath, even if they don’t.

 

Prevention and Treatment of Bad Breath

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent and treat bad breath (halitosis), including adopting an effective oral hygiene routine and taking into consideration other factors like diet and other lifestyle choices.

Oral Hygiene
  • brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day, every day
  • opt for a soft small or medium-sized toothbrush so you can reach those hard to get to places
  • consider the use of an electric toothbrush
  • use a separate toothbrush or a tongue scraper to lightly brush your tongue
  • ensure you replace your toothbrush every three months
  • avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes after eating or drinking highly acidic foods or beverages
  • use dental floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between your teeth
  • your dental healthcare professional may also suggest the use of mouthwash
If You Have Dentures
It's important to thoroughly clean your dentures with a toothbrush before putting them in the next morning. Be sure to use the cleaning agent recommended by your dentist - toothpaste can scratch your dentures and even cause staining in some cases. It's also suggested that you take your dentures out at night to give your mouth a chance to rest.

Tips for Fresh Breath
  • eat a healthy balanced diet, avoiding strongly flavoured or spicy food
  • give up smoking
  • eliminate or cut down on sugary food and drink as it increases bacteria in the mouth
  • reduce your alcohol consumption 
  • cut down on coffee
  • drink plenty of water to help prevent your mouth becoming dry
  • chew sugar-free gum after eating to stimulate the flow of saliva 

Regular Check-ups

Visiting your dentist every 6 months for a regular checkup and clean is an important part of any healthy oral health care routine. The regular removal of plaque and calculus, especially in areas that are difficult to reach, helps to maintain a healthy and clean mouth and reduces the risk of bad breath. Your dentist may also explain other oral hygiene techniques that may help reduce or eliminate bad breath.

Concerned about bad breath?
If you feel your medication, diet or other lifestyle factors may be contributing to your bad breath, speak to your Maven Dental Group dental healthcare professional.