HomeDental HealthBad Breath (Halitosis) Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Bad Breath (Halitosis) Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is an embarrassing condition characterized by consistent unpleasant odors emanating from oral cavity. This condition can be caused by consumption of certain foods, or poor oral hygiene. An unhealthy lifestyle or some diseases can also contribute to bad breath.

Almost everyone experiences bad breath from time to time. However, for some people, bad breath is a daily problem that causes embarrassment and can severely impact your confidence.

What Causes Halitosis?

Halitosis is caused by a reaction in the mouth between saliva, bacteria, and proteins that give rise to volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs).

When you don’t brush regularly, bacteria accumulate on the bits of food left in your mouth and between your teeth. The sulfur compounds released by these bacteria make your breath smell. This can lead to several oral health issues like halitosis, cavities and gum disease.

Certain foods, like garlic and onions that contain pungent oils, can cause halitosis because the oils are carried to your lungs and out through your mouth. Smoking is also a major cause of halitosis.

What are the Symptoms of Halitosis?

The main symptom of halitosis is a bad odor from the mouth that doesn’t go away. The odor may be strong enough for other people to notice. The odor can be worse in the morning or after smoking, drinking coffee, or eating certain foods such as garlic or bitter beans.

Having halitosis can have a major impact on a person. Because if you have a bad breath, other people may back away or turn their heads. This can cause a loss of confidence and self-esteem.

How is Halitosis Diagnosed?

The doctor will ask about the patient’s habits in cleaning the teeth and mouth, as well as the food and medicines consumed. The doctor will also ask about the patient’s medical history and snoring habits.

After that, the doctor will examine the patient’s mouth, tongue and nose to see if a cause can be found, such as an infection. If necessary, the doctor will wipe the back of the tongue with a special stick to assess bad breath.

If the cause of bad breath can not be determined, or bad breath is suspected to occur due to certain diseases, the doctor will carry out supporting examinations, such as:

  • Dental X-rays, to see if there are cavities
  • CT scan of the head, to see conditions of sinusitis and other disorders

How is Halitosis Treated?

The treatment of halitosis will depend on what is causing the problem. If your bad breath is caused by an underlying health condition, your dentist will refer you to an appropriate specialist.

For causes related to oral health, your dentist may recommend a toothpaste that contains an antibacterial agent to kill the bacteria that cause plaque buildup.

If you have gum disease, you may be referred to a gum specialist (periodontist). Gum disease can cause gums to pull away from your teeth, leaving deep pockets that fill with odor-causing bacteria. Your dentist may help to clear out the build-up of bacteria in pockets between the gums and teeth.

They might also recommend replacing faulty tooth restorations, a breeding ground for bacteria. It is recommended that individuals visit the dentist for a check-up and cleaning at least twice a year.

How can I Prevent Halitosis?

Here are some best ways to keep your breath smelling fresh and clean:

Brush your teeth twice a day

The first and the most important way to prevent bad breath is to brush regularly. Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste will remove the food debris and plaque. This will prevent the growth of bacteria and reduce bad breath. Also, remember to clean your tongue with your brush or a tongue scraper.

Floss at least once a day

Flossing is another great way to prevent bad breath. Proper flossing will remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth, which will reduce bad breath. Generally, it is advised to floss before you brush your teeth, because if you brush and then floss, any food particles and bacteria lifted from between your teeth will remain in your mouth until the next time you brush.

Rinse with a mouthwash

After you brush and floss your teeth, rinse your mouth with antibacterial mouthwashes to kill the bacteria that cause bad breath.

The extra rinsing with a mouthwash not only washes away any leftover bacteria, but it also adds an extra layer of protection. If you are not sure which mouth rinse to buy, ask your dentist. They would be more than happy to recommend one for you.

Drink enough water to prevent dry mouth

Saliva is necessary to moisten the mouth, neutralize acids produced by plaque, and wash away dead cells that accumulate in the mouth. If the mouth is naturally dry or dry due to a specific disease, such as xerostomia, odors can build up causing bad breath.

To keep your mouth moist, drink plenty of water — don’t substitute it with coffee, soft drinks, or alcohol, as they will only lead to a drier mouth.

For chronic dry mouth, your dentist or physician may prescribe an artificial saliva preparation or an oral medication that stimulates the flow of saliva.

Avoid smoking and chewing tobacco-based products

Smoking and chewing tobacco dry out your mouth and leave an unpleasant odor. This unpleasant odor persists in your mouth even after brushing. So, it’s best to avoid or stop smoking these products entirely to prevent bad breath.

Clean your dentures and other oral appliances

Dental appliances which are not cleaned regularly can harbor food particles or odor-causing bacteria. If you wear removable denture, remove them every night and clean them thoroughly before wearing them the next morning.

If you use mouthguards or retainers, follow the dentist’s instructions carefully. Make sure you clean your dental appliances regularly and thoroughly to prevent bad breath.

Snack on chruncy fruits and veggies

Munching on chruncy fruits and vegetables like apples and carrots can help clear odor-causing plaque and food particles from your mouth. Snacking on these fruits and veggies may also help stimulate the production of saliva that flushes away bacteria from your teeth, tongue and gums.

Visit your dentist regularly

It is important to visit the dentist regularly, at least twice a year. Having your teeth checked and cleaned regularly by the dentist is the best way to prevent bad breath and keep your bad breath at bay.

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