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A Breath Of Fresh Air
Chronic bad breath, also known as halitosis, is caused in most cases by a bacterial source in the airway and whilst it may be hard to know that your own breath is malodourous, it is unpleasant for those around us. Unlike ‘morning breath’ or a strong smell that lingers after eating food, halitosis remains for an extended period of time. Halitosis is a problem that mints, mouthwash or a tooth brushing can’t solve. About 2.4% of the adult population suffers from halitosis and can be a sign of poor oral health or of other diseases.
The causes of halitosis include:
- Dental factors – such as periodontitis (infection around the teeth) or poor oral hygiene. Cavities and deeper pockets from gum disease give sulfur-producing bacteria extra places to live in your mouth that are difficult to clear out with brushing or cleaning between your teeth. Dentures that aren’t cleaned regularly or don’t fit properly can harbor odour-causing bacteria and food particles.
- Smoking and tobacco – Not only does tobacco leave its own odour, it can also dry out your mouth, increasing your risk of gum disease and starves the mouth of oxygen.
- Dry mouth – Saliva helps cleanse your mouth, removing particles that cause bad odors and provides enzymes that help prevent cavities and infection. Several conditions, alcohol, stress and even medications can cause dry mouth contributing to bad breath due to reduced production of saliva.
- Medications –Some medications, as mentioned above can cause dry mouth and bad breath. However, other medications can be broken down in the body and release chemicals that can be carried on your breath.
- Infection/ Inflammation – Bad breath can be caused by tooth decay, gum disease, Infection/inflammation of the throat, nose, or sinusitis including postnasal drip.
- Other mouth, nose and throat conditions – surgical wounds after oral surgery or tooth removal,small stones in the tonsils or airway lesions or cancers can all encourage bacterial colonisation and cause an odour.
- Other – Chronic reflux of stomach acids (gastro oesophageal reflux disease) is an important cause of bad breath. Rarely metabolic disorders eg diabetes, can cause a distinctive odour as a result of the chemicals they produce.
Whilst treating or preventing halitosis will depend on the cause. Some simple proactive tips to help reduce your risk include:
- Good oral hygiene – brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes and floss everyday
- Gentle but effective tongue cleaning may also be required – clean from the back towards the front of the tongue, keeping in mind that the hardest to reach back portion smells the worst
- Chewing sugarless gum and reducing caffeine intake can increase saliva production
- Avoid dehydration
If these measures do not solve the problem, consider seeing your dentist and / or doctor to try to identify the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.