Alternative names: Oral Malodor, Halitosis
Most people will suffer from some degree of bad breath at some time in their lives.
Contrary to popular belief, we cannot smell our own breath because we become accustomed to our own smell.
Bad breath is a common problem that can be due to many causes. Only in rare cases do stomach or digestive problems contribute to bad breath. Most bad breath comes from the back of the mouth.
Temporary bad breath most commonly comes from the foods we eat such as onions, garlic and cabbage which will produce high amounts of sulfur compounds. The digested sulfur compounds are absorbed and carried by blood into the lungs where they are exhaled to produce bad breath. However, chronic bad breath is most commonly caused by bacteria that break down food debris left in the mouth.
Common Causes of Bad Breath:
Possible causes of various problems:
Problem: Odor after fasting, dieting, prolonged speaking, exercise, sleeping or taking medications.
Possible Cause: Dryness in the mouth caused by insufficient saliva flow.
Problem: Gums that bleed and bad breath.
Possible Cause: Gum disease caused by poor cleaning between teeth.
Problem: Odor when talking.
Possible Cause: Postnasal drip onto back of tongue.
Problem: Small whitish stones with foul odor appearing on tongue.
Possible Cause: Tonsilloliths from crypts in tonsils.
Problem: Odor appears suddenly from mouth of young child.
Possible Cause: Onset of throat infection.
Problem: Odor in denture wearers.
Possible Cause: Dentures kept in mouth all night or not cleaned properly.
Problem: Odor from nose.
Possible Cause: Sinusitis, polyps, dryness, foreign body, hindered air or mucous flow.
Problem: Bad taste all day long.
Possible Cause: Poor oral hygiene, gum disease, excessive bacteria on tongue surface.
The key to effective treatment and management of this condition is proper diagnosis. Recent research has enabled dentists to understand the causes of bad breath and therefore treat it more effectively. The main problem is accepting that one has bad breath as most individuals cannot smell their own breath. Asking friends or seeking other's opinion is usually the best way. Dentists usually begin by checking for the presence of oral disease or conditions that can contribute to bad breath.
Good brushing and flossing habits will help reduce bad breath. However, most people do not brush their teeth properly as it takes nearly 3 minutes to do so and most spend 45-60 seconds. Furthermore, bad breath can come from bacteria residing deep within crevices on the back of the tongue and thus a tongue scraper is required.
Mouthwashes will only provide temporary relief from bad breath. In fact, most mouthwashes contain alcohol, which has a drying effect in the mouth allowing bacteria to grow better. There are newer mouthwashes without alcohol as well as those which have compounds that react with and neutralize odor-causing volatile sulfur compounds produced by bacteria in the mouth.
The DOs and DON'Ts of bad breath
A medical study conducted in 2007 found a strong association between tonsilloliths and bad breath. Among those with bad breath, 75% of the subjects had tonsilloliths while only 6% of subjects with normal breath had tonsilloliths.
Dentures tend to collect particles of food and form bacterial plaque and tartar deposits, which are ideal places for bacteria, fungi and viruses to hide. These in turn can cause mouth infections, gum disease, decay of any remaining teeth, and bad breath.
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