What is Halitosis?
Halitosis is defined as chronic or persistent bad breath. It affects 1 in 4 people and can be a potentially embarrassing situation for those affected. Because of how common it is, questions often arise about how to treat bad breath. However, before we can treat halitosis, we need to know the cause.
What Causes Halitosis?
Common causes of halitosis include:
- Eating certain foods, such as onions, garlic and spices can cause bad breath temporarily.
- Tobacco products are associated with their own strong smell. Smokers and oral tobacco users are also more likely to have gum disease, another source of bad breath.
- Poor oral hygiene practices lead to the build-up of food and plaque, which can eventually lead to periodontal disease. A known cause of severe halitosis.
- Deep cavities in which food can become trapped.
- Large quantities of naturally occurring bacteria are often found on the back of the tongue, where they are mostly undisturbed can produce strong odors if the tongue is ignored during brushing.
- Dentures that aren’t cleaned regularly or don’t fit properly can harbour odour-causing bacteria and food particles.
- Xerostomia, commonly called dry mouth can contribute to bad breath because production of saliva is decreased. Saliva helps cleanse your mouth by removing food particles. Xerostomia can be caused by systemic problems or some medications.
- Underlying Diseases – small tonsil stones, infections or chronic inflammation of the nose and sinuses, some oral and throat cancers, metabolic disorders, including diabetes and acid reflux disease, can also contribute to halitosis
How Is Halitosis Treated?
Consistently practicing good oral hygiene is that main way to combat Halitosis. Further treatment for bad breath can vary depending on the cause. If your bad breath is thought to be caused by an underlying health condition, your dentist will refer you to your primary care provider for further treatment.
- Brush your teeth and floss daily to reduce the amount of plaque deposits in your mouth.
- Avoid foods that you know may contribute to strong odours.
- Seek professional treatment from your dentist to solve problems such as, tooth decay, defective fillings and gum disease.
- Clean your dentures daily. Just as you would strive to keep your teeth clean, it is important to do the same for dentures or any other dental appliance you might be wearing. It is key to note that dentures are not supposed to be worn while sleeping. They should be taken out at night and soaked in a glass with either denture cleaning solution/tablets or dilute bleach.
- Keep your mouth moist, avoid tobacco and drink lots of water. Sugar-free gum may also help to stimulate salivary flow. For chronic dry mouth, your dentist or physician may prescribe artificial saliva or an oral medication that stimulates salivary flow.
- Change every three to four months (or sooner after a cold) and choose a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Schedule regular dental checkups. See your dentist on a regular basis, ideally every six months.
Halitosis is not a death sentence but do your best to avoid unnecessary embarrassment and seek help from your dentist.
Feel free to reach out and ask any questions you might have.
Dr Budall is a General Dentist currently practicing at Andrews Memorial Hospital Dental Care in St. Andrew, Jamaica.