Let’s get real. For most people bad breath also called halitosis, can be embarrassing and in some cases may even cause anxiety. It affects how you feel about yourself and also how others perceive you. Certain foods, health conditions and habits are among the causes of bad breath. In many cases, bad breath can be improved with consistent proper dental hygiene. If simple self-care techniques don’t solve the problem, see a dentist or physician to be sure a more serious condition isn’t causing bad breath.
HOW CAN YOU TELL IF YOU HAVE BAD BREATH?
Some people worry too much about their breath even though they have little or no mouth odour, while others have bad breath and don’t know it. Because it’s difficult to assess how your own breath smells, ask a close friend or relative to confirm your breath questions. A simple way is to stick a clean finger in your mouth and scrape saliva from the back of your tongue. Put it on the back of your hand, wait a minute, then smell your hand. Does it smell like something you’d want to kiss? If not; don’t despair, check out these tips about causes and cures for bad breath below:
COMMON CAUSES OF BAD BREATH
- Foods: The breakdown of food particles in and around your teeth can increase bacteria and cause a foul odor. Foods such as onion, garlic, and fish can cause bad breath – even hours after you brush your teeth.
- Poor dental hygiene: If you don’t brush and floss daily, food particles remain in your mouth, causing bad breath. A colourless, sticky film of bacteria (plaque) forms on your teeth and if not brushed away, plaque can irritate your gums (gingivitis) and eventually form plaque-filled pockets between your teeth and gums (periodontitis). The uneven surface of the tongue also can trap bacteria that produce odour. And dentures that aren’t cleaned regularly or don’t fit properly can harbour odor-causing bacteria and food particles.
- Dry mouth. Saliva helps cleanse your mouth, removing particles that may cause bad odour. A condition called dry mouth — also known as xerostomia (zeer-o-STOE-me-ah) — can contribute to bad breath because production of saliva is decreased. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep, leading to “morning breath,” and is made worse if you sleep with your mouth open.
- Infections in the mouth. Bad breath can be caused by surgical wounds after oral surgery, such as tooth removal, or as a result of tooth decay, gum disease or mouth sores.
- Other mouth, nose and throat conditions: Bad breath can occasionally stem from small stones that form in the tonsils and are covered with bacteria that produce odorous chemicals. Infections or chronic inflammation in the nose, sinuses or throat, which can contribute to postnasal drip, also can cause bad breath.
- Bacteria: Bacteria breed inside the mouth. These micro organisms lurk between the teeth and tongue. When bacteria become stagnate, they multiply and give off toxins and smelly odours.
- Smoking: Any type of smoking (cigarettes, cigars, pipe etc.) or chewing tobacco can leave a really bad taste and smell in the mouth.Additionally, Smokers and oral tobacco users are also more likely to have gum disease, another source of bad breath.
- Tummy troubles. Sometimes gastrointestinal (GI) problems such as GERD or an ulcer can cause bad breath when you burp and gas is released.
TIPS TO GET RID OF BAD BREATH
1. Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day to banish bad breath. Brushing the tongue will remove smelly bacteria that cause bad breath. Most people forget to brush the tongue adequately, especially the back of the tongue.
2. Floss once a day for fresh breath. Flossing gets out hidden food particles and removes plaque, a coating of bacteria that forms around the tooth. Flossing also helps prevent periodontal disease another common cause of bad breath.
3. Gargle with peroxide to fight halitosis. An antimicrobial mouthwash is important if you have a problem with excess plaque and can also be used for fresher breath. Just ‘swish’ the product around in your mouth for 30 seconds to one minute, then spit it out. The oxygen in the hydrogen peroxide kills mouth bacteria that cause bad breath.
If self-care tips don’t work to stop your bad breath, see your doctor. Occasionally bad breath is a sign of a more serious problem, such as an infection, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, or kidney or liver disease.
St. Nicholas Hospital Quality and Safety Group, Mayoclinic.com, webmd.com.