Bad Breath – Halitosis

What is Halitosis?

Halitosis, by definition, is bad or sour smelling breath. It’s common, but usually preventable with proper dental care, by avoiding certain foods, and by maintaining your overall health. There are two types of bad breath: temporary and persistent.

Temporary Bad Breath

Temporary bad breath is often linked to the types of food you eat. Once foods with strong odors are digested, they’re absorbed in the bloodstream, carried to the lungs, and the odor is expelled with your breath. In these cases, the most you can do is cover up the odor until it passes through your body.

“Morning breath,” on the other hand, is caused by dry mouth. During the day saliva flows freely, neutralizing acids produced by plaque and washing away dead cells that accumulate.  At night, saliva flow decreases dramatically. Since the dead cells and plaque are not removed, they decompose in the mouth and give off a foul odor. Brushing and flossing your teeth and cleaning your tongue in the morning usually eliminates this problem.

Persistent Bad Breath

If bad breath doesn’t go away by avoiding certain foods or brushing and flossing, it’s sometimes a warning sign of gum (periodontal) disease. Gum disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on teeth. The bacteria cause toxins to form in the mouth, which irritate the gums. If gum disease continues untreated, it can damage the gums and jawbone.

This is why it’s important to brush and floss your teeth daily and see your dentist regularly. Otherwise food particles can remain in your mouth, promoting bacterial growth between teeth, around the gums, and on the tongue.

In addition, bad breath can be caused by poorly fitting dental appliances, yeast infections of the mouth, and cavities. Dry mouth can be caused by some medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous mouth breathing (like from a sinus infection).

Tips for preventing bad breath

Over-the-counter mouthwashes generally are not the answer to bad breath. They usually provide only a temporary way to mask unpleasant mouth odor. You’re better off doing the following:

  1. Brush twice daily and after each meal. This will get rid of the bacteria on your gum lines and between your teeth. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too. Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months. Use floss or an interdental cleaner to remove food particles and plaque between your teeth once a day. Dentures should be removed at night and cleaned thoroughly before being placed in your mouth the next morning.
  2. See your dentist regularly to ensure you remove the build up of bad breath causing plaque. He or she will give you an oral examination and professional teeth cleaning. Dentists can detect and treat periodontal disease, dry mouth, or other problems that may cause bad mouth odor.
  3. Drink plenty of water. This helps your saliva wash away those dead cells and food particles that decompose and cause unpleasant odors. Chewing gum or sucking on candy (preferably sugarless) stimulates the production of saliva, which helps wash away bits of food and bacteria.
  4. Avoid foods with strong odors. Garlic and onions are the biggest bad breath culprits, often lasting hours after a meal. However, if you’re not sure what foods are causing bad breath, record what you eat and review it with your dentist.
  5. Avoid tobacco products, like cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

If you’ve take these steps and still can’t defeat bad breath, talk with your dentist. Issues in your mouth–including bad breath–can sometimes be an indicator of other medical issues. In fact, your mouth can be a window to your body’s overall health.