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Bad Breath

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 18 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Halitosis; Bad Breath; Plaque; Bacteria:

Bad breath or halitosis is a very common complaint and can affect all people, of all ages. It can be a socially embarrassing disorder, though many sufferers are unaware that they have bad breath until someone mentions it.

Causes of Bad Breath

There are many causes of bad breath, some obvious, others less so. There most common cause is from poor dental hygiene. Many people do not realise that they are brushing their teeth using the wrong technique. Just because teeth are brushed twice a day does not necessarily mean that teeth are as clean as they could be. Your dental hygienist will be able to show the correct method of teeth cleaning and will advise on how to floss effectively. Those who haven’t flossed before are often surprised at how much debris remains between their teeth after brushing.

Ineffective brushing can lead to the build-up of plaque, which when in contact with oxygen, releases highly odorous gases causing bad breath. If the plaque is not removed, the formation of dental cavities can result meaning there is the added odour of rotting teeth also.

Another common cause is from eating highly aromatic foods such as garlic or onions. These smells linger on our breath and sometimes not even effective cleaning can remove them immediately.

Drinking alcohol can cause the breath to become odorous, even if the alcohol itself contains no apparent smell, the actually alcohol content remains on our breath for many hours.

Crash dieters, those with eating disorders and those who are not permitted to eat (such as hospital patients) should be aware that they are at risk of developing bad breath. The chemical reactions caused by not eating can make the breath smell ‘acidy’.

Dehydration is another cause of bad breath that can be easily solved. The decrease in saliva production to combat the dehydration can cause an increase in odorous bacterial build-up at the back of the mouth from normally washed away dead cells that are rotting. A simple glass of water after each meal will not only prevent bad breath, but it helps to loosen and remove the particles of food trapped between teeth.

Smoking causes the oral cavity and airways to become dehydrated, so not only do smokers have tobacco odour to fight they also have dehydration-related bad breath too.

Sinus problems from common colds or allergies increase the amount of secretions from the nose to the throat, these bacteria can settle in the back of the mouth, meaning bad breath occurs.

If gums are sore and red, you may have gum disease, another cause of bad breath, which will need treatment from your dentist.

Bad breath should be taken seriously as it can also be a symptom of an underlying medical problem which could be very dangerous. Many lung conditions, failure of the kidneys and liver or gastric problems can all cause bad breath, so if it does not clear up using the recommended treatments it is advisable to see your GP.

Treatments for Bad Breath

  • The most obvious treatment for bad breath is to ensure oral hygiene is maintained. Teeth should be brushed at least twice a day, with flossing carried out after the teeth have been cleaned.

  • Keeping well hydrated is not only good for overall health; it can help avoid bad breath and will aid in the removal of oral debris.

  • Stop smoking and avoid excessive drinking, especially on an empty stomach. After a night out, drink plenty of water to help neutralise the alcohol and avoid ‘morning breath’.

  • Change your tooth brush regularly and ensure dentist appointments are made and kept when due.

  • Mouthwashes, breath sprays and mints all provide temporary relief from bad breath, (good for meeting people, job interviews etc), but will not solve the problem. Exercise caution in the use of mouthwash with children or if driving as some contain alcohol; never swallow mouthwash.

  • Traditional folklore has always stated that chewing fresh parsley after eating a meal with highly aromatic ingredients can help to eliminate the associated odours.

Preventing Bad Breath

Keep oral hygiene up-to-date by brushing teeth twice a day using techniques recommended by your dental hygienist, flossing after every brushing, or after every meal and by drinking plenty of fluids.

A good toothbrush that has soft to medium bristles is perfect for reaching awkward areas of the mouth; change approximately every three months.

Try brushing your tongue or using a tongue scraper to remove any build-up of bacteria or dead cells; be careful to be gentle and to not trigger the gag reflex.

If you are a denture wearer, remove dentures and clean with a suitable cleansing agent. Do not forget to clean your own tongue and gums also.

Bad breath is a very common disorder and can cause embarrassment for many. Do not judge people if they have bad breath, remember it may be a sign of a more serious medical condition.

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